The morning after a heavy rain. Cool, soft, the humidity welcome on dry skin. They ran outside, sensing the calm of the day. When we lived in a place called home, they chased ladybugs. Here they quickly pick up on the patterns of snails. Sensing the life that comes after the rain.
It was a mad dash, the portal to the outdoors open wide. Nico is big enough now to listen, to follow direction and correct himself if expectation misses its mark.
“Grab that big shell for your snails, dude. The one by my desk.”
Too much complication to explain the location of a jar.
They go to Christian preschool, the kids. The boon of a scholarship and kindness, a miracle in and of itself if you’ve priced childcare these days. We claim no stake to religious preference. Fear makes it interesting.
But I’m not afraid of Jesus.
The shadows of sin.
This is the place where we leap across the gap.
I was taught to use an abalone shell for smudging. This is one of my tools, this shell, the traditions and ritual given to me by my mother when I came back from Montana to nurse heartbreak. I’ve been here before. I’ve done this before. Only this time, it’s me. Not her. This is the place to mourn, to heal. The mountains of grief stand strong in sunlight, clearing, purifying beneath a ubiquitous moon. Wearing down. Exposing earth. Starting again.
Do I allow these things to be touched? Desecrate them with snails and rocks and bits of trees?
You bet I do.
These sacred things.
The work is to fill them, surround them, embrace them with aspects of a sacred life. Sometimes I become invisibly dyslexic, move the consonants around ’til they shift into scared. It can take awhile to move them back, but the flaw of misguided meaning is far too much to bear.
These things, to me, are sacred.
The choice to remain without ties, without category, without place is a sacred act. By releasing the parts, the wholeness appears as itself.
My life, I remember, is sacred.
Just as you are sacred.
So come and sit real quick.
They’re pigeon feathers, found in the yard. White sage. Whatever we have. Small fingers prying into earth for life, taking the breath of tiny leaves to shore up into their own. These things become them, just as riversides and ocean tides became me. We give the words of our hearts slowly while we figure it out.
I hold the flame.
Nothing out of ceremony, they’re small. They’ll burn themselves. Fire claims a lot of responsibility, understanding, the ability to be quick on your feet.
Nothing romantic about this stash of sage, just bits broken and left to die down from a smudge stick. We do this everyday. Burn things. Offer our prayers to the sky. Jesus. Earth. Words. We have no motives, only thanks.
We talk about how God likes the smell. How it means thank you. How sometimes you have to say things in different ways so they are easy to understand. Like how some friends speak Spanish or Chinese or French, how some people don’t use words at all. They use motions. Pictures.
This happens quickly.
One moment. Maybe two.
They embrace, love, touch. Dive deep into the understanding, sit back, reflect. The simplicity is what feeds them. How somehow the answer can always be yes.
Then they’re right back at life.
It’s so beautiful it hurts.