You got the Silver, You got the Gold

10 Apr

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Open the eyes. . .open the ears of your heart. — Imaculee Ilibagiza

It’s a Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg, Virginia.

I sit in the sun outside The Cheese Shop with a glass of Cotes du Rhone and a plate of Taleggio, Humboldt Fog , and Comte with wide crackers, dried fig, and honey. The sunshine warms the air into a comfortable springish cloud. I sit ..in reverie.  As a person who has followed signs for two years, the last 24 hours has produced a catalog of synchronicities all confirming the necessity of being in this place.

I watch for the signs now. They tell me where I need to go. They show me that indeed there is a Universal power which governs my walking. After attending the lectures of Imaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor, at St Joan of Arc Church in Yorktown, Virginia no one could persuade me that I am wrong. For sign after sign assured me…

I watch over you.

 With you, I abide.

 After two days of intense introspection, I bask in the light of consciousness and inner conviction. I want to capture this moment in a bottle. . . this intensity of love and connected emotion. I want to tell everyone as they walk down the 18th century cobblestone paths or sip their wine and nibble from their plates.

You are Love. . . beyond words.

 I am Love.

 A power exists which loves us enough to transform human suffering into gold…if we only allow.

 When we awaken …we see Her everywhere. And She is with us …always.

It seems as though I have caught “religion”, but it isn’t that simple or convenient. The conviction of love has no expression other than the witness of the believer. To those who have never experienced atonement in the truest sense of the archetype, this type of belief is a street corner proselyte, dressed in the linen and ashes of something outside of the Self.

I open my little book and begin to write and a small old man rounds my left side. His face like a dried carved apple is topped with a black French beret. His smile extends genuine warmth.

“May vee share your table?” he says.  I detect a slight accent.

“Oh, yes!” I say.

I know by now that meetings are no accident. That the connections we make in life are food for our souls.

“Vee don’t vish to disturb”, the lady says nervously.

I can tell she doesn’t want to sit here, perhaps thinking I am wrapped in my writing. But I tell her quickly that it is fine. Whatever makes her most comfortable is best. She smiles, sits, pulls a small packet of tin foil from her purse.

“Vee come here every day”, the man says. “To have tea, read…”

He waves a thin newspaper. I look at them both closely. They must be in their eighties, small and fragile. Their eyes show the letting go of years, a slow assent to inner understanding.  The man gestures to my plate.

“Is nice. . .I don’t see many people eat zis way.” He means my luncheon cheese plate and wine.

“Yes, I eat in small bits…the American way is too much.”  I know he will understand.

The man tells me that he and his wife are originally from Czechoslovakia, but have lived here for nearly 30 years. He questions whether I am from Europe and as we talk, I know this is giving me a gift yet to be unwrapped. I must be patient, listen, ask questions if I can. Be present. After two days of signs and revelation, the position of automatic gratitude comes easily.

They begin to share a small slice of pecan pie, revealed from the tinfoil packet the lady has taken from her purse.  She sees me looking.

“Vee get from farmer’s market this morning.  Is sweet… only a little bit,” she smiles. Her large chocolate brown eyes are the richest color on her face other than carmine lipstick, the stuff of a grandmother’s kiss.

As our conversation deepens, the husband reveals that they have been married 65 years.

“That is amazing!” I exclaim.  After a small hesitation, I press on, “May I ask you a question? I hope it isn’t too forward… What’s the secret?”

They look at each other and smile. The question doesn’t seem to be a new one.

“Vell,” he says,  “You must put the other person first…”. “And they…must put you first,” she says over top of him.

Their joint explanation produces more delicate chuckles.  “And vee are best friends… “,  he says.

“Do you have children?” I ask.

“No. Vee didn’t vant any…it was enough to try not to have them!” the wife says raising her eyebrows.

Her more personal comment pushes us all into hearty laughing. Their tiny frames lean together in the shaded afternoon light under the table umbrella. She places her whole arm on top of his, rubbing the navy wool of his sweater. No brothers or sisters, these two are the ends of their lines, by choice.  When I gently ask them about this, she smiles, “Vee are for each other.”

I choke up a bit. No husband, no children or siblings, I have wondered for so long who will be with me at the end. Who will care for me…bury me. Will they be kind? And here are these two connected souls . . .there for each other with no thought to any future other than what is.

The husband leans over the table toward me, “Vhen vee fell in love, it vas a Streetcar named Desire….”

I smile widely, “How so?”

“Vell”, he says . “Vee lived in Prague and on the street car, I see a pretty girl. You know, one stands and one sits, so I stand by her.”

His wife is smiling and nodding at every line.

“And vee have different accents, because I was not born there, so I say to her, ‘Do you know where is this address?’ And of course, is my home address. So she offers to help me find and of course I can’t understand, so she has to take me there herself. To my house…then I ask her for a date”. He glances back and forth between us as the story unfolds, his smile shining from his eyes.  The moments pass so slowly. A peculiar feeling begins to rise, easing the pressure in my left chest. I bask in the sun of a love that has lasted well over half a century.

“So you know vee set a date”, he says, “at square where all the young people meet. And I am to go there and wait. I think…she will be late because girls like to do that…they like to make the man more eager. And I get there and she’s there!”

I look to the wife who says, “I like to be on time!” She shakes her head, “No games…I don’t like the games.”

We talk. We eat together. The delight between us is the sweetness of a first spring afternoon. The husband asks me if I am married. My negative reply prompts his asking, “In past?”

“Yes,” I say.

“And how long?” I tell him and also reveal that it wasn’t my choice that it would be so short.

“Do you see a man now?” he asks.

His wife pats his arm as if to tell him he has gone too far, and she frowns slightly.

“Yes, I did….” I hesitate, “We are. . . apart.” My face reveals a conflict too easily seen.

Words don’t seem to form as I look into his smiling eyes full of a wise heart’s years.

“Ah. . . you want back?” he says tilting his head to look at me through a keen eye.

I nod, which slightly blends into a shake and shrug of shoulders.

This small confession feels so natural in front of him. In the last four weeks, I have slowly been peeled, layer by layer. And I see so much more clearly. This part of the journey has placed mirror after mirror in front of me and the lessons in compassion, love, allowing, being and openness have come in much needed rough waves. High surf equals the most profound ride.

“Vell,” he says, “it depends on what kind of zoup it is.”

“Zoup?” I say, half laughing.

“Yes. Some zoup is better heated up the second time…some zoup?  Eh, not so good….”

My body erupts in laughter with them. The pressure in my chest propels out into the blue and white rippled sky.

“You vill be fine”, he says. “Men…afraid sometimes. They don’t like to feel wrong.”

His words comfort me. Suddenly I can’t contain this feeling welling inside my chest. For the first time, I feel like I can see it…the part inside us that shines…the golden part that has all the love in it. That’s true goodness. We make laundry lists of qualities we think will best serve our egos in relationships, when what we really need to be looking into is the heart and soul  of the person…not our projections or expectations. But is there goodness there? Kindness? Humanity in all its imperfection? The willingness to be authentic and vulnerable. The willingness to love as we really are.

Friday night, Imaculee spoke of forgiveness for the Hutu murderers of her family and friends. She had hidden in a small bathroom with seven other women for 91 days. She learned not only that the Divine loved her even in her suffering, but that the power of this love surpasses hate.

“We cannot put people into boxes of being”, she had said.  “We judge and they judge and we don’t see how miracles come from loving people for who they are not what they do. We cannot blame those who are asleep in their souls. We can only pray that they someday wake up to their actions and then…they too, like us, will ask to be forgiven.”

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

“If you cannot pray it”, she said, “skip that part till you can.”

At the end of a day on which I finally forgave the one who sent me on this long journey, I also asked the Universe to be forgiven for being so blind to the many gifts of love I already have and those I have carelessly lost.

Love is a force we embody. We just need to be awake to it. And in every sign…there is confirmation.

Yes, I am listening.

 Yes, I am with you.

 Yes, you are on the right path. 

 You are not alone.

After finishing their pie and our nearly hour long conversation, the couple made to leave. The wife placed her hand on my shoulder and gave a squeeze.

“Vill be ok”, she said with a most glorious smile. “You are young.  Is nice to travel alone…but nicer when you share.”

She patted me and they walked slowly out of the courtyard onto the path, holding hands.

Love is so simple. This was my first lesson. I must remember that.

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