26 Mar
44x36 oil pastel

“The Greatest Gift” 44×36 oil pastel


I am a hole in a flute that the Beloved’s breath moves through. Listen to this music.  –Rumi


My friend sits in a chair across from me, her eyes an ocean of empathy.

“I’m not good”, I say. “I should be feeling better, but I’m not…in fact, every day it gets worse. I should be feeling better…what is wrong with me?”

She listens to my story of confusion and regret. For a hasty decision of mine has hurt someone I love and myself in the process. An elephant named “Loss” is squatting on my chest. Tensed from jaw to knee, my left side aches; my knee popping disturbingly every time I bend it.

“I can’t eat,” I tell her. “I’ve lost five pounds. Everything that usually works to lift me is failing.“ The pressure in my chest, like a bucket of heavy ball bearings, spills out. Their cracking on the floor is the sound of my crying. In these moments, I am completely raw…completely open…completely vulnerable.

Gently she says, “May I commend you for your authenticity at this moment? This is the bravest I’ve ever seen you.”

I nod, wiping my nose.

Waveringly I tell her, “You know, one time on the phone, I was relaying my schedule of events for the weekend down to the last hour. And he innocently said to me, ‘Gosh honey, you are the loneliest person in the world.’”

I look up at my friend through large seven year old eyes.

I catch my breath, a sudden calmness descends over me.

I whisper.

“I am, …I am. “

As we talk, I begin to unwrap the gifts that have come through this connection and begin to see the situation in a completely different light. There was an awful lot of love there I just didn’t allow. This “moment of truth” has been coming for a long time, a point where being bound in the inability to move away from the discomfort of my own soul is essential. For now I am in the most important part…the part where I surrender. What seems unforgivable in me must be forgiven and I must move past what was done to me.

In order to love, I must be willing to truly accept it, to be vulnerable, and to be grateful for whatever healing comes from the connection, however and whenever it is given. To accept myself in like manner means loving parts of me that are not so lovable…parts that are selfish…parts that are weak or judgmental. To really love, one must not connect through wounds. Wounded connections have a past which weighs them, mires them. One cannot move forward unless forgiveness of the past happens, not for the person who has wronged us, but for our own sense of wholeness and healing.

“I hope you are writing down all of this,” she says. “Do you realize what enormously important gifts you’ve been given by this person?”

In recalling moments of true authenticity in the connection I have lost, my biggest dragon wheels into view:

My own feelings of unworthiness to be loved.

Truly, I cannot receive any love, unless I acknowledge a deserving in my core Self…not my ego. In true and honoring acceptance of people, I must allow them to love me as they are, for they love me as I am. This is love without attachment.

Doing so is hard. It’s hard because I am not a patient person who is entirely comfortable being with herself. In Joe’s terms, I now face the Ultimate Ordeal, learning the true nature of forgiveness. For that is the nest of unconditional love. All the while, the Universe was giving me what I needed and I wasn’t aware, wasn’t cognizant of the gifts so freely given.

My friend hands me another tissue, “Do you understand,” she says “that you are sitting in these emotions and tolerating them? This is so important. Feel it fully and let it go on its own.”

“I know”, I sniffle. “Honestly, I don’t have anymore energy to fight.”

But knowing the end of the story helps. I know the reward for moving through this portion of the journey. So I live each moment, tolerate what needs tolerating and open myself. My soul is fully awake.

Our conversation turns and I begin to tell her of my Lenten pilgrimage. In true “Wayfarin” style I had decided to visit as many services as I could from as many different faith systems as possible. My thought was to honor them in doing so. To give homage to all of the faces of the Divine. Unconsciously, though, I have piloted myself into a crucial and necessary part of this journey.

Now I understand the lyric, “…was blind, but now I see.” And it has nothing to do with dogma nor ritual nor icon, but the truth of this human existence. . Why was I put here? To Love. And I do not know completely how, and that is why I am here…now…walking this road in pilgrimage to learn how unconditional love feels…how it is both given and received. I’m not looking for the Divine as some external entity apart from my Self. I’m looking for the Universe that is already inside of me.

I begin to cry again. This is the hardest work I have ever done, I think. It is harder than anything I’ve ever faced.

My friend smiles, her snowy white hair framing her face filled with conviction. “You are so strong. Look at the most painful parts of your life. You survived…didn’t you? You can do this.” she tells me. “See how it all is falling into place? You are getting what you need as you need it. It will come in little bits …from all over. But you see it now. Don’t you? “

I nod, wiping my eyes. To be able to learn to rely on my higher self, to be able to transcend into the joy of a moment like butterflies on the bushes at City Cemetery, or a leaf twirling downward from my backyard trees. To revel in the hush of snow in the crisp dark or let croissant and coffee on a May morning in the effortless sunshine flood my senses, I must allow. To pause in connection to the Universe in a poetic line that cups the dearest emotion in my entire frame… that is true balance. That is where I want to be.


What I am learning now is that when I cry to the Universe for help, there WILL be an answer and it will give me what I need. Last Friday, I attended Shabbat at Agudath Sholom Synagogue. In a small group of fifteen, I sang the Kabbalah, and in the prayers I heard the gratitude of the Israelites in each verse.

“Baruch atah, Adonai, gaal Yishrael”

Praised are You, Adonai, for redeeming Israel

I thought of the Jews and their centuries long persecution and plight. Their connections held them wrapped in the faith that they would be delivered out of bondage. I think of the massive loss of loved ones and of their personal sorrow. They have learned forgiveness as a way of transcending despair.


Sunday, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Stuart’s Draft with my brother Paul, I saw it in Matthew 6:26 part of the Watchtower lesson for the day.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

On the trip to Ocracoke this past Thanksgiving, birds came into my consciousness and populated my experiences. Looking back on that post and my art from then till now, I know nothing is random. This pilgrimage is to learn forgiveness, to untie an emotional knot that threatens to strangle all that has been given in this journey. Every step of the road was leading to this point. It is the most important time of my life, I think. And summoning all the courage I have to allow whatever comes will guide the going. There is no need to “do” anything other than be awake…listen…write…cry… lean on friends if I need…do my daily work.

Driving home from my friend’s place, I think back to Ocracoke Coffee Shop in December of 2012. A woman is seated in a red cushy chair with Ryan’s café au lait and a bagel, someone who needed to find a way to heal herself. Maybe I will return there this year, maybe not. The discovery of voice there and the lessons learned since are what I needed for now. Soon, I go to Charleston SC with Clarence and my mother to  re-walk another road from last summer, the Civil War. My pilgrimage will end at St John the Baptist Cathedral. I am meant to be there. In between the then and now, stops will come along the way. Easter Sunday, I have no idea where I will see the sunrise. However, I can guess…with coffee at granddaddy’s grave, sharing with him more of what he deserves in a granddaughter. And the journey will go on …from there.


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