Monday, August 17, 2009

I need to tell this story

...however I can, well or not. I don’t know if I’m back from my blogging break. I may explain that later; don’t know that it matters. Come and listen.

I’m at the Bishop’s Ranch for a week. I hosted my own parish retreat, and I’m helping fill in for the reservations coordinator while she’s away. I got here last Wednesday, and I leave this Friday. I’ve been working, resting, spending time with friends. Healing parts of me that don’t get touched, anywhere else.

Tonight, I took a walk after dinner. I hadn’t moved my body all day, and was craving the exercise and the prayer-time. I threw my fleece on, because it’s already cool in the evenings. Packed water, camera, and flashlight in case I got back after dark. (There is ambient light, and my feet know the trails. There’s also poison oak.)

I set out toward the peace pole. If you don’t know the geography, it’s about a 20-25 minute walk for a healthy person. The last half or so is steep hill. At my sickest, I couldn’t walk it. It’s been a good distance as I’m recovering; strenuous but doable. I’ve always stopped when I’ve needed to. When I really can’t do it, I don’t push myself to get there.

I was walking along, thinking about cancer, treatment, healing. I got to the crossroads where you’d either go left to the treehouse or right to the peace pole. I paused... and I started singing the Troparion. And stomping to it. I did this, the entire hill climb.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death
And on those in the tombs bestowing life,
Bestowing life!

I sometimes sang full-voice, and sometimes whispered. There were times I had to pause and stomp in place. I ran out of breath, and my muscles got tired. But I did it.

I climbed, and stomped, and sang, and thought, “No, I’m going to the Cristo instead.” It’s a new piece of art, behind and above the peace pole. A huge, welded crucifix. The artist was dying of ALS when he created it. It’s the last thing he built, before he died.

I got there, breathless, triumphant, prayerful. I knew that my body was praying. I didn't realize I was on a pilgrimage, until I stopped walking. My head refused (and still refuses) to understand any of this. But my body knows what it knows. I stopped singing, stood still. Touched the feet of this Christ. Looked up, into his face. The sun had just set, behind him.

I stayed there for a few minutes, just being. When I felt ready to leave, I faced the cross again and said thank you. To the resurrected Christ. To my body, for healing and for bringing me there. To my feet, for making contact with the earth—and to the earth, for supporting me and all life. To this sacred place, for existing.

I turned. And I found myself singing a new song, the lorica that my advisor taught us on our class retreat. That weekend in April coincided with the anniversary of my diagnosis. I’d been sick with respiratory gunk, had laryngitis, and couldn’t sing a note. But tonight, the melody that I’d never quite learned came easily to me. I sang, and I danced all by myself down the hill.

May the spirit of Christ be our guide through the day,
Our guard through the night,
Our companion on the way.

Christ be ever before us,
Christ be ever behind us,
Christ be ever around us.

Over and over. Like a mantra, and a circle dance alone. I knew I didn’t really get what I was doing. And I knew that I did.

I got to a place where I needed to pause, catch my breath and my balance. Hills of oak trees rose on either side of me. The creek bed was to my left; dry this time of year. Still, quiet, and vibrating with life.

A flutter caught my attention. I watched it fly in front of me, and settle briefly on a branch. Owl. It paused for a few seconds, and flew back the way it had come.

I know that I’ll never understand this, with my head. There are meanings that words do not touch. But I know who that owl was. And I know why it flew just there, just then.

I said thank you to the owl, and to God. And I walked the rest of the way home.

I am not the storyteller that sickness taught me to be. I don’t have the patience to make this my art, in the way that writing always has been. I traded the gnats in my brain for the skittery being of a water bug. Slowness and deep attention are skills I’ll need to re-learn. But I can, if I work at it. And I need to. I love baking bread—but I miss this, too much. Both the sharing of stories, and the open space required of me to hear them.


Paul said...

I read it on FB first but I am so glad to read this here! Welcome back (on so many levels).

Verification word: unpac
As in, unpack the journey you've been on?

Wormwood's Doxy said...

And I needed to hear it. Thank you.

FWIW, I've had that experience with rabbits. I like thinking of God as a rabbit, for some strange reason...


Grandmère Mimi said...

Beautiful, Kirstin. You're a fine storyteller still. I join you in thanking God for all you are today and where you are today.

Jen P said...

Thank you for sharing; very powerful and inspiring.

Kirstin said...

Thank you. It's good to be home.

Hugs to all!

FHS said...

I saw your comment about this on FB. So glad I came. You are a wonderful writer Kirstin. This reminds me, I haven't taken my favorite meditation walk this entire summer! Going out tomorrow morning early!!! Thank you.

Kirstin said...

Thanks, Erin! Good to see you. :-)

johnieb said...

Thank you, Kristen; this is well done.

It occurs to me there is openness to experience--reality--and the openness to release one's stories. I'm much better at the former & terrible at the latter.

it's margaret said...

There is ample evidence that people used to dance and sing while doing praying the labyrinth... you just did it up and down the hill. Of course!

Owl is powerful medicine. Sees in the dark. Knows about death. But doesn't eat water bugs...! be careful none the less. It is not wise to be casual with powerful medicine.

Blessings dear sister. Glad you had time to write.

Caminante said...

Cristus resurrexit! What a wonderful story... it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you, thank you... and glad you are back on the blog.

Ann said...

woohoo - she's baaaack and bloggin

Eileen said...

Very moving..I needed this. I've been away on vacation and this is a wonderful thing to come back to! ((((K))))