The Norway Spruce canopied me and the child at my chest on the grounds of Yew Dell Gardens. Morning light filtered through the spiny branches yielding young cones resembling pink berries. I touched and tasted the sap, more floral and fragrant than sweet. I breathed the air, not yet heavy with the day's heat, but warm and waking. I walked across the soft bed of fallen needles, a nest of comfort, under the shadows of ancient ones whispering their secrets of longevity.
I read later that this ancient tree belongs to the species of the oldest single living tree and was the first gymnosperm genome to be sequenced by scientists. Its evergreen limbs form protective coating on their spiky leaves that protects chlorophyll - alchemical component that transforms light into nourishment - and retains precious water - essential life element. The variation is great between individuals but each tree features th
e hardy characteristics that keep its boundaries to outside harshness impermeable. External storms inform the plant's growth, touch the bark and the roots, but do not penetrate the energetic center. Thus, the trees continue to flourish, aeons old.
Illness wore down our whole family, forcing an abbreviated quarantine. Quarantine: forty days, period of transformation. While we were only sick for a week, the time began simultaneously with a sabbatical from social media. The last twelve days of Lent invited the deep healing of body and spirit, painful and purging and profound. The upper room of our home became the Hermitage.
Solitude: foundational fodder for an intentional life, but the cave I have come to fear to enter. Anxiety meets me there, existential dread, and terror for my children, all children. But I came back to my breath, again and again, and the beating of my heart. Everything alive is breathing. Everything alive is beating. Everything dead is to be held with the awareness that something new, somewhere, will be born from it. I'm connected to all of it. I'm dying and living. I can be reborn.
Relationship: as Merton wrote, what saves us all in the end. I reached out to friends who are also
suffering. I spent time with my people. I loved on my little ones without mental interruption. I listened to the news and wept as I have been unable to for weeks because the information came to me in stories, one at a time. I felt the singeing sorrow wrapping us in fire and I shared about the pain with people in a circle of chairs. I felt the bomb's reverberation without my eyes on a screen. I have no answers. I have awareness I can practice. I have hands to extend, hands to put to work, hands to hold.
Alignment: what happens when you remember your own inner wisdom and hook it to your feet. Feeling returned to the edges of my energetic appendages numbed by overconsumption and digital distraction. My heart ached again, my mind settled again, my body spoke up again, my spirit alighted again. I trusted I was all I could be, and so was enough. I did what I could do and paid attention to my life.
The next week, Holy Week, I felt intoxicatingly alive. Sensation returned like the sharp relief the morning after a terrible migraine, when suddenly you can open your eyes again. My children were playing again. The sun soothed us, the breeze refreshed us, and music brought us back to life. As we sat down to a hearty dinner on the porch under an umbrella's shade, I asked my oldest son about his favorite part of the day. Without hesitation, he responded, "Right now, eating this dinner out here with everybody."
The next night, he ritually received a foot-washing. He washed my feet and his brother's in return. He knew it was a way to teach us how to love. But first, curiously, he watched others enact the old, symbolic practice. He tenderly expressed, "I want to have my feet washed, but I feel nervous." Then, he accepted the reassurance of his mother's hand, his young friend Justice's kindness, and sat with his legs dangling above the ceremonial bowl. He smiled as his small, wet feet were dried in a soft towel.
He was eager to bend and pour the water over my feet. I breathed in, letting the gentleness of his inexpert fingers touch my heart, letting water trickle down my toes and from my eyes, letting the painful and powerful tenderness of sacrifice and resurrection wash me anew. When he finished, he hugged me close. "I love you, Mom. Let's do that again!" Later, after washing the feet of his baby brother, he spontaneously embraced him with passion. They held one another without self-consciousness. "Mmm. I love you, Ronin."
To share meals and wash each other's feet;
to choose personal presence and engaged action over information consumption and paralysis;
to stand under silent pines and sit in circles of people listening;
to trust the photosynthesis of my soul and balanced permeability;
to protect my spirit by preferring community and following my own creative movement;
to make space for healing, however long it takes;
to surrender the idea that anyone else knows better how I may best serve the world:
these are the daily fast I choose.
After early morning storms, we rose on Easter Sunday to a clear sky, stepping into water and light at play under our feet.