Saturday, February 20, 2010

doubt, prayer, and the healing power of beauty

Sunset.  Low tide.

Faith and prayer have never come easily to me.  I’m a doubter.   I talked to a friend about it once when I was feeling anguished on a meditation retreat, and she said maybe the most comforting sentence I've ever heard.  She said, ‘Maybe God likes you that way.’

Recently I watched a loved one go through something hard, and I came to the realization that I'm completely powerless to help her.  It seems that I’ve been given two choices:  worry, or pray.  I’ve had this short poem by Hafiz rattling around in my head for days now.  I need to have it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

Now that all your worry has proved such an unlucrative business, why not find a better job.

So this is my prayer.

Sometimes time melts.  Six hours spread out in our minds to reach the girth of a decade’s worth of memories.

My friend and I were fifteen and it was summer.  Neither of us appreciated those facts much.  Both of us had a parent with cancer and life felt full of snares.  But we'd been graced by a trip with her family to a largely unspoiled island with the Atlantic stretching out on one side, and wide green salt marshes on the other.  It was easier to breathe there with the salt air and all of the space just to be. 

After dinner and some games of gin rummy one night we took our usual barefoot walk along the quiet beach.  We could see layers of stars above the dark ocean, and little else except for the glint of foam at our feet under the half moon.

We walked a long way along the shore to our favorite place, a protected cove on the northernmost point of the island where the beach ended and we had to navigate through spiky reeds and armies of sand crabs to sit on some large rocks over the water.  That night the sea was smooth and it was easy to imagine walking on it, out and out.

Still heat curled around our bodies and tickled drops of sweat from the backs of our necks before we slowly eased into the dark water. We walked in up to our chests, then dunked our heads and shoulders under quickly, shivering for a moment before adjusting. 

We traced constellations in the sky, getting lost in endless layers of stars and distant galaxies.  Shooting stars radiated over our heads, one after another.  It was a meteor shower, a poem to bent time, end of time.  It felt like a mystery that was outside of us, and somehow passing into us directly through our eyes.

Around our shoulders and arms we found more stars.  There were stars in the reflection on the sea’s surface, and yellow sparks inside the water too. 

Phosphorescence danced with our movement, shimmered in our wet hair.  We were crowned with stars.  We were inside of them, two Queens of Heaven, two infants safe inside of Mystery, splashing and laughing, in love with the rise and fall of our sparkling forms, in love with everything until the sky grew light and we made our way home to slip into our beds by sunrise.

That night unfurls inside my spirit like a map to Source when I’m full of doubt and forgetting beauty.

I pray that my loved one who shared it with me can be comforted by the memory too, that if her pain ever becomes too big, she can remember that time, have it become one of her maps back to beauty.  I pray that like for me, it will help her remember that the universe is vast, gorgeous, endlessly varied, always changing, always eternal, whole, and that somehow nothing is ever lost when we love it.


ann said...

This is very beautiful Kate. I hope your loved one is comforted by it too.

1950's Housewife said...
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wholly jeanne said...

memories like this one are salve to weary, tired souls. even if we weren't there.

Kate T.W. said...

Thanks Jeanne. That's the most I could hope for. What it was to write it. Salve.