Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Healing and truth, and the power of story

To my parish community, the Bishop's Ranch, and to God, all I can say is thank you.

Parish Weekend was a homecoming for me, in ways deeper than words. I’ve been working at the Ranch all summer; being part of this gathering felt like my whole family had come to see me. I got real time with people I’m particularly close to. I got closer to people I’ve respected for a long time. And I got to see for myself, how far I’ve come.

The theme of the weekend was "journeys." We did an exercise Saturday morning, using the metaphor of rocks in our shoes. I asked to be one of the storytellers that night, because the idea didn’t terrify me. I’ve struggled with speaking clearly since I was a teenager; my brain goes faster than my mouth, when I’m excited or nervous, and I almost always have to repeat myself. I knew that I could do this, and I really wanted to. I stood up, in this circle of love in the Ranch House living room, and spoke my truth in total assurance. I knew as I was speaking that I was slow enough; knew that I was loud enough. I didn’t get stuck, and I didn’t get lost. I never once tripped over my mouth. I hadn’t had any prep time, but I didn’t need it. I wasn’t trying to read the words in my head. I just, simply, spoke them.

Are you getting the idea yet, that this is huge ? Because it is. It’s the equivalent of climbing a mountain without ropes, trusting that your hands and feet will grip the rock—and then being proven right, with every fluid motion. I felt completely supported by the community. I also felt completely capable. Part of that assurance comes from being at the Ranch all summer. This is a place of unfathomable healing. The land and the people are good for the soul; joy and justice live and grow here, and I've learned how to breathe. Part of it is the intentional work I’ve done, and that some in the community have helped me with. I cannot minimize the gift of this community—the power in knowing that everything offered is received, in love. Questions and critiques come later. The first gift we give one another is appreciation. I’ve witnessed this for two years, and it is palpable.

Here, then, is my story, more or less the way it came in the telling. I had detailed the event in the post just following, and my reflections there took me to a slightly different place. I'm still learning how to tell this story; I'm still learning how to live it. It happened a little more than two weeks ago.

The rocks I carry with me have never hurt my feet. The rocks I carry with me are liberating.

I’ve been up at the Ranch all summer, working. I’d been needing an ocean fix. Two weeks ago Friday, when I had a day off, I drove out to Goat Rock, to walk around in infinity for awhile. I needed to pray—and I often do that best when I’m moving.

There are signs up everywhere saying, “Stay out of the water.” The “safe” area is more-or-less flat; the danger zone slopes steeply toward the ocean. I was there at high tide; the water came almost to the lip. It was so socked-in that I couldn’t see very far; this was kind of like looking down at a huge, unpredictably roiling bathtub.

I walked toward the rock, slowly, barefooted over sand and gravel. The beach is fairly narrow at high tide, and bounded on the dry side by rusty, windswept cliffs. Something more than curiosity told me to go check them out. I found myself standing, my back pressed to the edge of California, feet thrust into shifting sand, face toward the water and the wind. I was thinking of plate tectonics, how the cliff I was leaning on was slowly pushing toward the ocean.

And I heard, or felt, God, saying, “Go.” Not literally, “jump into these riptides and drown,” but, “Go be in my ocean. Live with and love my people.” The voice inside me was the rock at my back. The water was all life, all possibility, all adventure, all love.

I don’t know how long I stood there, just being with all of this. I walked back slowly, watching where I was going. I noticed a rock at my feet. It was pale grey-blue, light and porous, shaped like a flat egg, barely denser than pumice. It was wet and shiny; the color caught my eye. I picked it up. It was small, flat; I would have skipped it across the water without thinking, had the ocean not been so rough. As it was, I held it for awhile, turned it over and looked at it, then tossed it back onto the ground. But… it seemed to want to come with me. I felt like, if I had the right kind of ears I could hear what it was saying. So I picked it up again, and walked on, watching the ground, trying not to walk on gravel.

The same thing happened two more times. I carried three small, flat, nearly identical rocks home in my pocket. I carry them with me now. Again, I wish I could hear better. I don’t know really what the rocks are about. But what I take from them is this: Listen. Remember. And be present.


Mimi said...


lj said...

It is huge and wonderful and very, very good. Way to go.
(p.s. like the new photo).

Max Rainey said...

Oh Mylanta, Kirstin.

When I grow up I want to be just like you.

yours in the constitutionally-too-much-struggle,


ps mountain lion? what mountain lion?

Kirstin said...

Thank you, everyone.

lj, that pic was taken at the retreat center where I work, on top of a hill with oak trees behind me. I look that happy because of what this place has done.

Max, that is so mutual I can't even tell you. But you already know.

All of you... so much love.

eileen said...