I did something unusual for me and for many of us influenced by Western culture: I set aside an entire day to acknowledge change. No squeezing in emails, meetings, calls, errands, chores, a quick workout, etc. Without a doubt, I knew that the most important business on March 10th was the business of life.
In return, I received something unusual, something meaningful. It arrived through a series of coincidences that awed me.
I woke early to drive to a labyrinth in Maryland. A labyrinth is a pattern on the ground to be walked slowly and mindfully for relaxation, meditation, or prayer. Unlike a maze (which confounds), it is unicursal–the path in is the path out. In this case, the labyrinth was a large spiral, the grass path demarcated by red bricks narrow-side up.
A woman from West Virginia, gifted in bereavement guidance, had suggested this ritual for contemplating all that my father’s life and death mean to me. And so it was that she and I met in a windswept field, winter bare, down a two-lane rural road.
She told of just having returned from the Outer Banks of North Carolina the day before, of asking a guide to go to an historic, beautiful island nearby. She said that it occurred to her to ask if the guide knew a Hand who fished. The guide did. He pointed to a charming old home used as a hunting and fishing camp–one where Dad had spent many happy times.
What she did not know, could not know: that island and that old home are places that represent my father’s joy in and embrace of life. The salt marshes, ocean, and sound, the flocks of geese over head, the companionship of others… there was always an adventure to be had: the clam-growing experiment that failed in result but not in effort, or sloshing through water, gigging flounder at night. The surrounding shallows that require knowledge and respectful navigation. The thrill of driving a tractor with no brakes. A wildly flaming cauldron of oil in which the Thanksgiving turkey cooked. The cold, one-dog nights. Raccoons. Nutria (mink-like animals evidenced by the holes they left in the ground). Determined mosquitoes.
And so, I was standing in a place I’d never been, to walk a labyrinth remembering my Dad, with a woman I’d just met. And she had just returned from a place that most embodied his spirit. She put a shell from that very place gently in my hand. I walked slowly, tears streaming, the shell held tightly.
I did something unusual. I took time to acknowledge change and received something more: change acknowledging me. From a sense of deep loss to wondering if that shell was a postcard from my father.
What change has occurred or is about to occur in your life? One that presents an opportunity that you might, in the busyness of your life, let slip by? Set aside time to acknowledge the change, and be open to what it offers.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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