the pure oxygen of prayer
shortly before i fluttered open my eyes this morning, i steered my rumbly-tummied self into the safest place i know: the arms of who i know to be God.
i’ve been doing it, i realized, all my life. in all the tight squeezes and lightless tunnels, in all the passages when to-do lists drive my day, and i demonstrate a masterful knack for conjuring worries of assorted size and shape and girth. now, for instance. with one week till my sweet boy’s bar mitzvah, and somewhere in the offing, the pages of my book being spilled with words i’ve typed from my heart for years and years, this patch in here has been an adrenaline-stoked doozie.
i awake each morning to a to-do list that slowly, surely, gets chiseled away. but i have to keep the lasso near at hand, for i’ve an inclination to tumble forward in time and go breathless. i picture myself catapulting forward with little oxygen on board. i’ve known myself long enough to know that i’m not so good at shaking the small stuff. i get consumed by the small stuff. don’t want to forget one water bottle by the side of either of the house guests who will be sleeping here for the weekend. don’t want to drone on too long when i stand before the room and ladle love in great dollops to each and every blessed soul who has shone a light on the boy we know as T.
never mind, too, that my sweet boy is as nervous as nervous can be. never mind that he takes soccer balls blasting at his face at 50 miles per hour, and thinks nothing of diving face-first into them to keep them from soaring into the goal. when i tried to suggest he dip into that same well of courage, he explained quite matter of factly that podiums in front of synagogues and goal posts on a soccer field are wholly different realms, and one brand of courage does not bleed into the other. point, taken.
i do what mamas do in such instances: i take on his wobbles, too. pile them mightily on my own over-packed jalopy, and putt-putt along the potholed lanes with his worries strapped on top of mine.
which makes me a bit haggard these days. and if you look closely, you might see my shoulders sagging. and my jeans a wee bit loose around the hips.
so here’s the secret, the cure-all potion for those moments when i am certain i’m perched at the precipice, about to fall headlong into the bottomless inky pit: i sink into a hole all right, but it’s one illuminated in holy light. it’s the arms i practically feel wrap around me. it’s the near-whisper in my ear.
it’s God. my old old friend God.
and God applies balm to my heart, and snips the jangled nerves. God, with that twinkle in God’s eye, reminds me that i am being silly. and letting the runaway worries run away. God gently taps me upside the noggin, and reminds me: I’ll be there. I am there. I’m here, right here. And I’m not leaving.
i know we all imagine God in our own extraordinary ways. those of us blessed to do such imagining. my knowing of God, i realized this morning as i felt myself sink into the feather down of God’s embrace, my capacity for catapulting myself into that safe place, that harbored place, has something to do with my capacity for time travel born of all the pages that i turned when i was just a little girl, and i plopped upon my quilt-square coverlet, and tiptoed along the rose-tangled lanes and secret gardens of England’s countryside, or into the big wisconsin woods where laura ingalls wilder lived with ma and pa and mary in their little cabin.
that was the genesis. the beginning of a power to believe. and so that capacity to make like a hovercraft and transport myself, my soul, into another sphere, another space, it’s been exercised all my days.
oh, sure, my sense of God has grown up alongside me. but at heart, it’s that tender transporting, that moving me from fear and wobble into safe and wrapped that is at the heart of why, worry after worry, year after year, i plunge for the hands, the arms, that hold me, whisper soothing holiness.
and, too, over the years, i’ve discovered the world is stitched with what amount to “on switches,” brushstrokes of beauty that unlock the channels, and draw me straight to the heart of the Divine. my rambling garden. the just blooming bottle-brushes of late-summer’s hydrangea. the pit-a-pat of rain. the sound of my firstborn’s footsteps from the bedroom just above, knowing he’s home, and i’m awash in deepest gratefulness. the morning song of mama wren. the chatter of the sparrows who’ve made their home just above the front door, in a little cove they’ve pecked away with their insistent sparrow beaks.
i’ve grown wise enough to know that i need to stay close to all these channel openers in my life. when i feel myself getting dizzy from worries, i tiptoe out the door, and plonk myself on the bluestone stoop. i sit and breathe. watch the sunlight dance upon hydrangea leaves. follow the flutter of the august butterfly. fill my lungs. feel the arms of God surround me.
drink in the holy whisper. remind myself i’m not alone. never alone.
and all i need do to feel the squeeze of God beside me is slow down, deep breathe, and fill my sorry lungs.
how’s that for an exercise in heart-baring? i’m not quite sure what prompted me to try to write about what it feels like to reach out to God, and feel wrapped in the holy blanket of God’s presence. but now i’ve gone and done it. because that’s what this is, a place where the first draft of the heart and soul is unfurled. it’s but a sketch pad, after all. one week’s attempt to try to wrap words around the ineffable. along the way, maybe i stumble on a moment of incandescence. maybe it’s all a blur. but it’s the trying that’s the point.
how do you describe reaching out for Holiness when you’re wobbling and awash in worldly worry?
my god resides in the garden, sometimes quietly, sometimes all a roar- once he nearly struck me with a lightening bolt, out of nowhere- because i was feverishly going on and on, not paying attention. funny when god speaks directly to you- you know it’s him, the big weirdo.
for me, it is a present god and should i look for tbw whilst peering too far back in my history or too far forward in the great unexisting yet tomorrow- i don’t usually find him. it is in the present, the dew, the bird song right now- ahhh, i say- there you are…i’m listening. i say, i need a hug. up comes the breeze all over my skin, southerly embraces are the best. or i announce, i need to know the direction….(that request requires oodles of time in stillness or i never see the compass points) but mostly, it is out there, in the whatever now of day- that i say thank you, increase my faith. i always ask for a beauty of the day moment, and always get that too, no matter the shit storm that might be brewing. ,
i find my self this day, this moment- taking a break from canning, asking direction, lucky for me i checked my email and got that right here. oh we’re too busy for everlasting, everlasting is just there, right now, here- so to sum this all up, i reach out by reaching in, slowing the turbulent turbine inside by going outside…i so often too often say- oh, there you are. it’s as you say, the blur makes it so hard to see, know, hear, feel and yes, even taste- that i miss god. he must miss me too, because the homecoming feels like some great feast that he’d been cooking up all along, just waiting for me to fill up. with that said, always- thanks to you. take care.
my beloved true wonder, i read your words to my firstborn who was sitting with me in dappled shade when i discovered them. he said, speaking MY heart” “this is beautiful.” she is. you are. you speak my language through and through. love you, true wonder. “the great unexisting tomorrow…” i was afraid i was writing too close to the heart here. as always, you reach out and catch me. always always. love, from my dappled shade to yours…xoxo
I could feel the arms of God’s around me as I read this post!! I also know, as a mom, I feel my grown kids’ pain as if it were my own, and feel powerless that I can’t kiss it and put a band-aid on it. For me meditation or a walk by the ocean on Siesta Key, gives me that feeling of a wide-open heart, when I want to contract, try to control, because of fear.
[…] the pure oxygen of prayer. […]
Oh, dear bam, you know how much my heart needed this right now. I’ve been too dug in to do anything more than say, “Please, help.” And, indeed, through your words, I am less afraid. Thank you for always sharing your stunningly beautiful heart. And may the G-d of our father Abraham, the great I AM, bring the tenderest blessings to T’s bar mitzvah. Mazeltov!
bless your beautiful, tender heart. and thank you for the blessing for sweet T. xox
How do I reach out (besides pulling up a chair)? Poetry is where I go…
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
and poetry is always what I find here at the table in Bam words and in comments shared. Bless the coming week.
oh, truly be still my heart! i literally clasped my hand to my mouth, in awe, as i read. how could i not have read these lines before? they are so breath=taking. “…walks with us silently out of the night..”
“…go to the limits of your longing. / Embody me.”
and finally, “Give me your hand….”
this, i want to embroider in my heart…..
Your whole family will be in my prayers until next Saturday and I know you will be KVELLING and he will do a great job!
He holds a special place in my heart since I discovered his birthday is the day after my own.
All best wishes for the big day,
well, HAPPY birthday, a week late! thank you much. and bless your heart. xoxox
Barbara, would you like to know something? Every moment with you here is incandescent. I felt myself nodding and thinking yes, yes as I read this essay. I love your remarks about “‘on switches,’ brushstrokes of beauty that unlock the channels, and draw me straight to the heart of the Divine.” Oh, absolutely – I see it this way, too. Thank you for posting this “exercise in heart-baring,” for unfurling this “first draft of the heart and soul”, for sharing your intellect and inner radiance, for weaving words in wondrous ways.
Many blessings for your sweet son’s bar mitzvah. Wishing all your family love and great joy. xoxo
. . . P.S. I cannot wait for your book to be published!!!!
you are so so lovely. and the miracle of our discovering each other in a cyber world that is not necessarily the native habitat of either of us makes it all the more extraordinary. i will carry all of you with me as i deep-breathe this week. all of you are my O2s……