Saturday, December 10, 2011

If this is ecstasy...

I just finished Cutting for Stone, the much praised book by Abraham Verghese. Now I know why I don't read too many novels: I become so engrossed that leaving the book behind and reemerging into my daily life is a jarring shock. This book will stay with me for a good long while. 

There's a British surgeon, a hospital in Ethiopia, a series of political upheavals, an Indian nun, a church in Texas, Ethiopian music, words in Italian, discussions of fistula surgery - this book has a little bit of everything in it. Kinda like life.

There's a scene in a church: We lit candles. Hema fell to her knees, the flame throwing a flickering light on her face. Her lips moved. She believed in every kind of deity, and in reincarnation and resurrection - she knew no contradictions in these areas. How I admired her faith, her lack of self-consciousness - a Hindu lighting candles to a Carmelite nun in a Catholic church.

I knelt too. I addressed God and Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Shiva and Ghosh - all the beings I carried with me in the flesh and in spirit. Thank you for letting me be alive, letting me see this marble dream. I felt a great peace, a sense that coming to this spot had completed the circuit, and now a blocked current would flow and I could rest. If "ecstasy" meant the sudden intrusion of the sacred into the ordinary, then it had just happened to me. 

Here's the thing: if that is how some define "ecstasy," then indeed I have experienced moments of ecstasy every day of my life. Looking back on my most recent trip to Spain in particular, I had several such moments while in the company of one of my dearest life companions, someone whose words, whose friendship, whose wisdom, and whose presence strengthen and encourage me. I am a stronger woman simply because this person is alive and walking on the planet. We walked, we talked, we ate, we drank. I took photos and copious notes. I wept. I laughed. I closed my eyes and took mental photographs when pulling out my camera felt too intrusive. The sacred intruded into the ordinary at every turn, at some point during every hour. Peace invaded every exchange. I was in ecstasy.

As I spend time in these final weeks of the year looking back on 2011, looking back on Christmases past, looking back at my entire life, I have often fallen to my knees. I address God, my father, mi compaƱero, and so many others that I carry with me in the flesh and in spirit - and I say, Thank you for letting me see this day, letting me see tonight's full moon, and leading me to so many places so I could take so many photos of so many marble, stone, glass, and divinely human dreams. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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