What I'm Writing
Last night I was at a discussion group at which this question was posed: “What feelings of awe did you experience when you saw the first pictures from the JWST?”
Sadly, All the people in my group focused on the $10 billion price tag. David and I had hoped we could hear people speak about their experiences of awe. Where did those take them? But most were either unimpressed or focused on how that money could’ve been spent on the poor or in studying our own planet—our oceans for example. I called that a false comparison, better stated I’m told as false equivalence.
Reflections on the James Webb Space Telescope, June 13, 2022
NASA photo of a young star-forming region of the Carina Nebula, released to the pubic on 7-12-22.
Even so, it’s a complaint often made. I responded that it isn’t NASA taking food from the mouths of the poor. It’s war. So when we got home, David and I looked up the cost of recent wars. We haven’t yet done the math (maybe you’d like to) but we found this: Since 9/11, the war on terror has cost 8 trillion dollars. JWST’s cost is in the billions, not the trillions, and that 10 billion’s been spent over 25 years. It also employs a lot of scientists and engineers who otherwise might have spent their talents on weapons and war-making. If nothing else, photos taken by the JWST reveal the specialness in the universe of this one small speck of dust that we call Earth. How very, very fragile we are—as Sting sings. This precious planet is our home, small, at the edge of the Milky Way, which is one of billions and billions of galaxies. And it, this planet, is in grave danger. Scientists tell us that we have roughly 7 years left until we reach a tipping point when, quite literally, all hell will break loose. As with the purported ten plagues of Egypt, there will be even more floods and fires—and, well, perhaps all the rest.
Let’s talk about awe, which (along with great suffering) is one of our pathways to God. I point to all this (along with the ten plagues) in my play Puzzles and Borderlines. Jane, an astronaut, stands at the pearly gates. Near the end of the play, St. Peter hands her a celestial spyglass of sorts and tells her, “Here, look through this lens.” She does, and so doing she begins to see things the way God sees them—from billions of light years away—and what she sees is what people still here on earth need to see: that we humans are desperately in need of a metanoia. We need to look at everything differently. I believe that is worth something—possibly even more than 10 billion U.S. dollars. The engendering of awe is worth something.
Produced live as part of Theatre Artists Studio's 2022 "Summer Shorts," Puzzles and Borderlines was produced as a Zoom reading in 2020. To see the reading, click here.
Wildness, December 17, 2020
In the wildness of your world
Imagining so at least.
Original. Unheard of. Out of the
The wind whipping across the moor
Unseen in the fog, but felt
Sliding over the bog moss
Swirling in the gnarled oaks
Over the gorse and heather at my feet.
I have wanted, Beloved,
To keep you within bounds
In the soaring transepts of the nave
In the neatly trimmed hedgerows
Even those grown for a labyrinth
Which seems mysterious
The labyrinth I mean
Yet is nothing compared to
The natural labyrinth you, God, created.
The wildness of.
Your roaring gales,
The skittering sounds that cause me to startle.
I enjoy it all—
As long as it is
As long as I can follow
A pathway beside the lake
A switchback over the mountain
A footpath through the meadow
A stream through the forest
A pass through the gorge
A trail into the canyon
Beside Roman walls, tide pools, villages.
As long as
Someone else has laid the trail
But not the wild
The wild the way you, Beloved,
I saw some photographs today
The wind whipping across Devon
Sliding down the panes of glass
Splashing on the windowsills
And I wanted to go outside and stand in the rain
Step off the trail
Jump into the pond and swim
Never mind the cold or the wet or the fear of werewolves
Real or imagined
As the poet writes,
“Keep me from going to sleep too soon.
Wake me up.
Tell me the stars are doing something they’ve never done before.
But wake me.
See that I see.
You know that I am not too hard persuaded.” [*]
[*] Paraphrased from the poem, “Summons,” by Robert Francis.
by Rosie Jackson, Poet
"The Via Negativa: Finding God in Darkness,"
A Religious Discourse
Delivered at the
First Congregational Church of Prescott, Arizona
On the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020
Overview: The Via Negativa is a term coined by thirteen-century
Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, possibly the most significant
mystic-prophet of the Western World. Theologian and writer
Matthew Fox re-introduces the term to us as one of 4 paths
for awakening and sustaining our connection to God—the others paths being the Via Positiva, the Via Creativa, and the Via Tranformativa. This advent, we are focusing on the Via Negativa.
The Via Negativa is experienced in two states. One is voluntary and one not so much.
The voluntary way is through darkness, silence, and meditation—a practice engaged in by many early Christians, as well as in Buddhism, Hopi and Navajo spiritualities, and many other spiritual traditions. Meister Eckhart, said that “Nothing in all creation is more like God than silence.” Through silence we seek and find the God that isinstead of the God that isn’t. In silence, we enter a place where we can set aside misguided notions of God and let God reveal Godself anew to us.
Thomas Merton says, “If there is no silence beyond and within the words of doctrine, there is no religion, only religious ideology. For religion goes beyond words and actions, and attains to the ultimate truth in silence. . . . only in ‘non-actions’ does the spirit truly awake from the dream of a … confused existence.”**
Meditation and contemplation require deep silence; and advent, falling during winter, is a perfect time to experience silence. Not just bears, but so much else has gone to sleep; and if we are lucky enough to get snow, a hush falls over the land.
Last winter I was staying upstairs at my partner David’s house so that I could bring him meals while he did a silent, meditative retreat downstairs. One morning I awoke to find that Prescott had had a snowfall so deep and rich that it broke tree limbs and downed trees all over town. The house being on a hill above Prescott, I was able to see the snowfall in all its power and beauty. I’d never seen a snowfall that deep anywhere, and I stood watching in silence and awe. That awe spiraled me back to the Via Positiva, that state of gratitude, joy, and awe that also brings us closer to God.
But there’s another kind of Via Negativa, and it is not one we choose the way we do meditation. The involuntary state of the Via Negativa is brokenness or grief. We don’t plan that, but as many of us have experienced, it is a powerful pathway to God. St. John of the Cross wrote about this experience, so has St. Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, and many people following other spiritual traditions. John of the Cross calls the involuntary state of the Via Negativa, “the dark night of the soul” which he experienced when he was imprisoned for months as a heretic in a tiny, windowless cell. People who have lost everything during this pandemic—loss of their livelihood, their time alone, loss of a mother, father a child, or a best friend—know the Via Negativa well. Ask a single mother with small children what it’s like to work at home while home-schooling a couple of kids. Ask health care professionals what it’s like to work 18 hour shifts or zip up another body bag and then hear people complain about having to wear a mask. This is the Via Negativa, a time of loss.
Meister Eckhart tells us that, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” Always? No. And often not at first.
Seven years ago, I was dealing with heart-rending loneliness and an unnerving illness at the same time. Like most white Christians I would come to church dressed nicely, listen to the sermon, look “normal.” But often, some part of the service—maybe a song—would leave me awash in tears—once to the point where my shoulders were shaking. That’s not really okay in a white protestant church—not week after week. When black people worship, when native people worship, the pain doesn’t have to be covered up. It’s shouted. It’s chanted. It’s sung. Sometimes it’s danced. Lamentations are in order today, not just because of the pandemic, but because of the escalating environmental crisis, injustice toward people of color, for-profit jails and for-profit war-making, and our failures at wisely educating our children. We have a lotto learn from other forms of worship regarding lamentation.
I believe our entire society has been going through a collective dark night of the soul for many months. What if we were to use this time of darkness and plague as a chance to draw closer to God? What if we were to take this time of isolation to re-examine society and imagine a better way, a deeper spirituality, a more just society? Matthew Fox says, “A pandemic is a terrible thing to waste.”
Julian of Norwich lived in England during repeated waves of the Black Death in the mid 1300s. She had every reason to question the existence of God or at least the relevance of God. 1/3rdof Europe died in that pandemic. Julian almost died of the plague herself. Yet in the midst of a pandemic that kept returning in wave after wave, she is best known for declaring, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Where could this notion have come from during a time of pandemic farworse than ours? I believe it came from the many hours, the manyyears, Julian spent cloistered in contemplative prayer and contemplation. Knowing that “All shall be well” is part of our Christian walk of faith.
So here we see the convergence of both forms of the Via Negativa—the Via Negativa we choose and the one thrust upon us. Julian’s life combined them both.
How many of us have drawn closer to God during our own dark nights? And, like the recurring bouts of the plague during Julian’s time, many of us experience more than one. Eventually I did emerge from the darkness I was experiencing seven years ago and from many other dark nights. And yes, most of them did bring me closer to God.
An old, patriarchal belief assumes that we climb a ladder to God. “No,” says Matthew Fox, “We sink into God.” That sinking can come involuntarilyfrom deep loss, depression, coming to terms with addiction, loss of faith—from any grief thrust upon us. Sinking into God may also come when we sink voluntarilyinto silence.
Contemplative prayer and meditation are two ways through which we can sink voluntarily into the darkness. God willbe there to greet us, gradually filling us with knowledge of Godself. It takes time. It takes practice and we’ll never know all of what God is.
I’ve been a working mother and a peace and justice activist most of my life. You would not have described me as a contemplative. But I have changed—partly because it was years of stress that brought on my worst symptoms of the illness. I’ve hadto slow down and my Buddhist boyfriend David has helped me.
I told David that once the election was over, I wanted to take three days off to do a personal “retreat.” We had planned one last summer, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. So for three days this week I did that. I was alone in quiet to read, write, meditate, and to walk. David supported me by bringing me meals. We didn’t see each other.
Now, I am no expert at meditation, and I spent more time reading and writing than meditating. Last winter I when I was bringing Davidmeals, it was because he was doing a 49-day retreat downstairs in the dark—in complete darkness. No books. No writing. No lights. Just darkness, reflection, and meditation. And he does not consider himselfan expert. I am fully aware that we can’t all do that. My son has a three-year-old. He can’t take three days off to meditate. When I was a working mother, I might have needed three days of reflection, but like many of you non-retired humans, I couldn’t do it.
Today, we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. Why not voluntarily enter the Via Negativa by choosing a special time each day or night to sit in meditation. There are many kinds of mindfulness. I suggest you find one that suits you. Guided meditations are often a good way to start. You don’t have to be skillful at it. That’s why it’s called a practice. You just have to show up.
“God is at home,” Eckhart says. “It is we who have gone for a walk.”
So—what can we expect to happen during this voluntary darkness?
Meister Eckhart said, “I pray to God to rid me of God.” That’s one of the reasons he was condemned by his Dominican Order of the Catholic Church. But the church “leaders” didn’t understand what he was saying. Eckhart meant that we need to empty ourselves of our preconceived ideas about God so that the indescribable God can pour in and amaze us with more of what God actually is.
One Lent, I decided to read one of the gospels as much as possible from a fresh point of view—as if reading it for the first time, learning about Jesus for the first time, as if I knew nothing about him.
I chose The Gospel of Markbecause it was the first one written and scholars tell us that it is the least embellished by the writer. It stands as a simple telling of the public life of Jesus of Nazareth.
As I read, one major theme struck me: Jesus was consistently trying to get away from people! From the crowds that sought him and from his disciples! He wanted to get away by himself. Of course compassionkept drawing him back to the crowds—their need for healing or for food.
Now it’s strange that this is what struck me. I’m sure something different would strike you if you tried the same process. Apparently, it’s what I needed to hear. Lectio Divinais a Benedictine practice that works this way—that allows us to reflect on scripture so that it speaks to us in a personal way.
What my reflection said to me is that even Jesus needed a lot of alone timewith God. And if Jesus needed it, then I certainly need it—we need it! That’s how we become one with God, or as Paul the Apostle put it, how Christ comes to live in us.* Not just through our actions, even if those actions are as consequential as feeding five thousand with a few loaves and fishes or lobbying Congress for nuclear arms treaties or for equal justice for people of color. Such actions spread compassion and justice. But, to spread peace and justice from a compassionate heart, one needs time alone withGod so that we may knowGod.
When we sit in silence, when we empty ourselves during this time of Advent, the Christ Child can slowly seep in, gradually revealing to us who God is. After all, as the banner in front of our church says, “God is still speaking.” Emptying ourselves takes time. It takes attention. It takes a willingness to live without answers for a while and it takes consistency in our spiritual seeking. And all that often comes when we are in darkness—darkness we have chosen or darkness we have had thrust upon us.
Juan de la Cruz wrote the sacred poetry for which he is most famous while he was in jail in 1567. His purest art came out of his deepest suffering at the hands of the same church authorities who later canonized him as St. John of the Cross.
What kind of God will we find when we drop into the Via Negativa? Richard Rohr says we can find a balance between what we know and what we don’t know. Eckhart says, “Be silent and do not flap your gums about God, for to the extent that you flap your gums about God, you lie and you commit sin.” The writer of Isaiah` calls God “a hidden God.” By reverencing the hidden nature of God, we express humility and respect for God’s transcendence.
After all, what can we, as mere mortals, understand about a transcendent, ineffable, mysterious God? 1stCorinthians 13:12 says, “for now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”
In August of 2017, I attended a retreat in Scotland where we began each day with communion. Our first communion began with this statement: “To believe you know more than you know is heresy. To be open is to be faithful.” I don’t know who first made that statement, and I don’t generally like calling someone a heretic but the statement drives home the importance of humility when we talk of God.
“Whatever one says that God is, he is not,” says Eckhart. Of course! God is always beyond what we can imagine—in compassion, in wisdom, in power, in beauty, in love, in creativity. Which one of us could possibly be as creative as God? When we look at the beauty of Creation how can we notstand in awe? Who could possibly be as compassionate as God? And so here we are, circling back from the Via Negativa to the Via Positiva—to the beauty of God’s greatness. And so it is. And now we wait in silence or in grieffor the Christ Child, so that by way of him God can show Godself to us.
Voice of the Coronavirus 2020 April 1, 2020
[My poem was inspired by “Letter from the Coronavirus” by Kristin Flyntz,
3-12-20. My eternal thanks to Kristin for inspiring my poem.]
Do not be afraid.
Wait for me to speak. Do not try to speak for me. Just listen.
I chose a bat as my host because I could not begin my journey in you.
You are too strong and powerful and have too many ways of fighting.
I had to search for a weakness through which I could enter you
And I found it.
I had to find a way to speak to you.
It was imperative. Is imperative.
The little bat gave me entry.
Please listen. I am still speaking.
Speaking because I love you.
How otherwise can a thing as tiny as a virus find a voice
Against all your defenses?
My name is Coronavirus.
I began my journey in China because it is the most populous on Earth.
I need to reach as many people as possible.
I am traveling now through the United States
Because you are the most powerful on Earth.
I apologize for my stop in Italy.
A land of poetry and song and love.
It did not deserve the horror I left there.
But, you see, once I began traveling,
I was guided by science.
That is the way I travel.
It is the only way I can.
But maybe something in me also knew
That the West as you know it
Began in Rome.
And being who I am, I was drawn there.
To the beginning of what you call “civilization.”
You ask why I am here.
I am asking you to stop and rethink.
What of all your inventions?
What of all your technology?
What has it brought you?
Has it allowed you to better enjoy a sunrise?
Does it sharpen your ears to hear the birds sing in the morning?
Or hear the crickets as night begins?
Is swimming in a river more pleasurable now?
Is your ascent to mountaintops
Or your descent into valleys more full of wonder?
Does the scent of the rose bring you more joy?
Or the giggles of children bring you more delight?
Does the taste of the peach burst more brightly inside the vestibule of your mouth?
Can you see more clearly into the tide pools?
The insects are disappearing.
The rivers are drying up from your unquenchable thirst.
The views from the mountaintops are occluded.
Your flowers altered for easier transportation
So they have lost their scent.
The children are sad and ill-equipped for enchantment.
Our fruits too modified for travel, not taste.
The old stories are lying untold and unread.
The reefs too are dying.
Wake up beloveds.
I am here to awaken you.
Why did I choose you as a host?
Because you are the most beautiful of the creatures.
All creatures are beautiful.
Were they not, why would the love that made them have called them so?
Most of all.
Who else can sing? What other creatures have created
Guernica, the Sistine Chapel, or Starry Night?
The great sculptures of ancient Greece and Europe?
The cathedrals along the Rhine
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or Leonard Cohen’s?
Who else the great gardens of England or the delicate ones of Japan?
They pyramids of Egypt? Those within the rainforests of America? The Taj Mahal.
Who else has written the Arabian Nights, The Brothers Karamazov?
Les Misérables? The Razor’s Edge?
It has been you, my hosts.
Yet all this majesty has made you proud.
It has made you believe you are invincible.
You have become self-important.
These gifts were given you
Because you were meant to be co-creators with God
But too many of your gifts have been ill-used
Used to build your egos instead of your art
It is time now to
The cataclysms that were meant to stop you
The hurricanes, and floods, and fires
Did not make you stop.
You kept using your creativity to kill instead of birth.
So the fire has come inside your bodies.
It has come through me.
I am your teacher.
I am your lover.
Patriotism 101 June 6, 2017
I have often half-jokingly said that my two ways of being patriotic are baseball and the National Parks System. I’m not one to put my hand over my heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance or because we’re directed to sing the national anthem. How can I pledge allegiance to one country and its people without wanting to stand up for all people everywhere?
As a human being I’d rather pledge allegiance to God as I know God to be. As a
Christian, I don’t pledge my allegiance to a flag, I pledge my allegiance to Jesus the
Christ. (And yeah, I fail a lot!) As for the “indivisible” part, I have no problem with
that—it’s just that I feel indivisible with all the Earth’s people, along with all the
Earth’s animals, its landforms, waterways, “and to every beast of the earth and to
every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that
has the breath of life,” so to speak.
In any case, the range of the national anthem makes it far too difficult for any normal
person to sing (what were they thinking?), and if it is sung, then it should definitely
be followed by “Play ball!”
The thing is, I’ve recently discovered that I am more patriotic than I had presumed. I
do like the appellation for the National Parks System, “America’s Best Idea.” And,
unlike when the national anthem is sung, I do still get chills and tear-up when
“America the Beautiful” is sung—and it’s even sing-able. As for baseball, something
about it evokes images of immigrants making their way in this new country, of
immigrant kids playing it on the streets of the Lower East Side, and of my first generation
dad watching it on TV. Maybe it’s like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It’s
But as the recent administration has increasingly been spending time in the White
House, I’ve discovered that there are other things I’m patriotic about—like the
Constitution and the rule of law, and the system of checks and balances. I’m patriotic
about presidents who understand those things—maybe even because he or she
studied them in twelfth grade or even eighth grade and paid attention—you know at
least took it for pass/fail and passed. Even so, expecting a future leader to get an A in
American History or American Government kind of seems like one of those good ideas.
I’m patriotic about our country’s ideals—because they are ideals and many of us
keep striving to meet them the way I strive to be a little more like Christ, even
though people keep telling me that Jesus didn’t really mean give all your goods to
the poor and that he only meant to welcome the stranger if that stranger wasn’t
Muslim or possibly black.
I’m patriotic about those ideals. I believe in what the Statue of Liberty stands for.
Recently, I got to see her in all her green glory up close from the river, and with how
we’ve been treating “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe
free,” my heart was tearing at me. Then, then, I wanted to put my hand over my
A few weeks ago, at the suggestion of my son, I took the sky tram to Roosevelt
Island. Walking under the cherry blossoms to the southern tip, I stood silently
reading beneath the words carved in granite at Four Freedom’s Park. Then, then I
wanted to put my hand over my heart. I’d arrived a bit late in the day, just as the
island’s Cherry Blossom Festival was ending. I guess I’m patriotic about cherry
When my daughter was in eighth grade, with the full support of her public, not
charter, middle-school principal, I took her on a three-week tour of Connecticut and
Massachusetts—an American history tour. We visited what seemed like
everything—from Mystic Seaport, CT, where we helped out on a schooner, to John
Adams’ house in Quincy. We walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, read gravestones,
and ate at an oyster house frequented by Ben Franklin. At Mystic Seaport we saw
where they built the replica of the slave ship, the Amistad; and in Boston, we went
onboard that replica and descended to where enslaved people would have been
We followed the path of Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott, and Billy Dawes, and I sat for
an hour in a pew in the Old North Church, imagining lanterns and considering that
night. We walked the 5.5-mile Battle Road Trail from the North Bridge in Concord to
Lexington, the path of the opening battle of the American Revolution.
We toured Plymouth Plantation and carried tin lanterns into a dark graveyard one
night as a tour guide searched for ghosts. We learned that it was the Wampanoag
who made it possible for the pilgrims to make it through that first long winter and
that it was they who shared their food with the new immigrants that first
Thanksgiving, not the other way around.
We drank fresh-pressed cider at a mill, watched a blacksmith, and played early
children’s games at Old Sturbridge Village. We toured a fabric mill where docents
turned on the sound so we could hear how deafening it was for the children and
immigrants who worked there, and we visited the houses where the girls lived.
We learned about Louisa May Alcott’s father and his experiment with socialism at
Fruitlands, where we also sipped the best pumpkin soup ever. We stood in the room
where we imagined Louisa writing Little Women. We visited the homes of Mark
Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, saw that they lived
just across a lawn from each other, and learned of the salons in Mark Twain’s parlor
where intellectuals shared ideas. We walked around Walden Pond. We rode bikes on
Cape Cod and, after a waiter explained how, we ate lobster in Rockport, Maine. And
we did more.
Each night, I had my daughter—who has the lovely Irish-immigrant name Molly—
write in her journal to which she added picture postcards and later photographs
once we’d returned. I wanted Molly to understand our country, its history, what it
stands for, or until recently stood for.
Did I mention that I’m also patriotic about Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies and
that I tear up at the end of both White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life? I simply
don’t believe for a minute that that’s corny. I repudiate the concentration of income
or power or making of decisions in the hands of a few rich oligarchs. I repudiate the
erosion of the EPA and women’s rights. I repudiate the undermining of truth and the
respect for a free press. I repudiate domination by any one cultural group—be that
of white men, the banks, the oil magnates, the military, or the 1%. I repudiate the
undermining of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. I
repudiate the undermining of our system of justice and the separation of
government service and private gain.
I repudiate the sale of more military weapons to other countries, and applaud the
selling of democratic ideals to other countries—something we can only do if we
return to a form of government that represents those ideas here at home. An
oligarchy is not a democracy.
Hey folks, in the Spring of 2021, I reworked this essay as a monologue in the voice of the fictional character Rory Hancock. Produced by Theatre Artists Studio as part of its series "Sounds of Life," the monologue is now available here on YouTube. Be sure to move the link to the top of the page so that the link opens.
Dignity. I believe I understand the unmet goals and noblest ideals of this country. I
try to pass these on to others. And right now, I resist this administration because I
refuse to normalize the shredding of our Constitution, our rule of law, our goals,
ideals, our history, our aspirations, our experiment in democracy, our welcome to
the immigrant and refugee, our respect for people of all faiths and all cultural and
ethnic backgrounds. I refuse to say that these things for which this country stands
are not worth remembering and consistently, against all odds, working for. I study, I
remember, and therefore I resist.
Lightning (A Short Story of Ecstasy) 2008
Lightning seared into Moira’s soul with the force of the Big Bang.
When he broke her heart, she felt it. When her heart knitted itself together
again, she felt it. This happened over and over for the next several weeks.
Breaking and knitting. Breaking and knitting. Breaking and knitting.
Moira’s heart was not in mint condition. This was not Moira’s first
heartbreak or her first heart-knitting. Indeed, she took solace in what a friend
had once told her, “Your heart has to break. It’s the only way it has of
What might be odd, Moira considered, is that I can feel it. I can physically feel my heart breaking. A crack not like a bowl shattering, but rather like one’s fngers digging through the soft outer prickles of a lichee, the gentle emergence of the succulent white flesh, and the dissolving of it into the mouth of consciousness. Moira’s heartbreaks were gradual. Diffuse. Fluid.
Each time, the knitting came later—sometimes two or three hours later—always surprising her. Tiny butterflies plying nano-needles would fly to her heart and start knitting. Their nano-stitches were zigzag. This had to be so, for had the needles drawn the heart pieces together, her heart would not have been bigger, only more tattered. As she imagined it, the zigzag stitches gave her heart the appearance of a pre-emancipation quilt—one with not quite enough fabric, yet full of soul and beauty.
Ah, Lightning. They say that alcoholism affects not only the drinker, but ten other people as well. In Lightning’s case, it was far, far more because his beauty, free of demon drink, was palpable and nourishing. Mountains grew from it. It knitted the bones of wounded animals. Because of Lightning’s beauty, water pooled in the desert providing drink for tortoises, and from those pools, wildflowers bloomed. Perhaps, most pertinently, it had healed Moira.
When Lightning fell off the wagon, Moira called upon the spirits of the air and forest, her high teachers and spirit guides, the angel Bob, her Cherokee protector, the old ones of the pueblos, and all the fairies of Ireland, to help him. Eventually, she fell to her knees and prayed. She read Rumi and waited for grace: “I want that kind of grace from God that when it hits, I won’t get off the floor for days. And when I finally do stagger into a semblance of poise, I will still need a cane and shoulder to help me walk, and I will need great patience from any who try to decipher my slurred speech.”
Even though it made her glasses fog up and tears fall from her eyes right in the middle of her favorite coffee haunt downtown, Moira reflected.
The first time they had made love, Lightning had left for work sometime before dawn. That kind of grace. Moira was not on the floor—and not for days. But she was immobile in her beautiful wet bed. Outside the window were tall ponderosa pines. A gentle breeze scattered the songs of wakening birds. The essence of Lightning was in the room. Moira smelled the sheets and covers, licking his pheromones where she could find them. Her body was not aflame, though it should have been. Her body was not of substance. It was an airy thing, a vapor, a phantasm.
Though Moira was insubstantial, she could feel and even think. This feeling within her. What was it? It seemed there was a name for it, but Moira had little idea of what it was. She lay lightly on the bed. It was, in fact, infrequently that she even moved a leg or an arm. There seemed no need for movement, and certainly none for activity.
This was unusual. Moira was normally action personified, often startling others into the obvious conclusion that she daily cloned herself in order to accomplish a typical day’s tasks. This day, however, nothing seemed to matter except lying in bed, drinking in the pleasures of the various fluids coursing through her body, mind, and spirit. So, while complete inactivity might be seen as slothfulness in another, its extraordinary nature in Moira’s case was brilliant.
You see, the evening before, as they were making love, Moira left her body. Lightning and Moira had merged. At first, Moira simply slid within Lightning’s aura. But having touched his soul, all boundaries disappeared and the two of them were suddenly swimming in the cosmic soup. Complete intercellular mingling. As if she were watching an animated PBS show on physics, Moira could see and feel their cells spinning in and around one another.
There was too much beauty and power to contain—certainly too much for two mere mortals—so Moira sent out the excess to the whole world. She watched as the energy flowed out from her to all that was wounded in the world. In Brazil, loggers refused to cut down ancient trees. In Montana, a rancher with his sights on a mountain lion, set down his gun and walked calmly inside for dinner. In Costa Rica, hoteliers made the decision to build elsewhere, rather than remove trees inhabited by monkeys. In Arizona, clouds burst open, nourishing parched cacti and creating small rivulets into which horned toads jumped and small birds splashed and rinsed their wings.
This particular morning therefore, Moira lay supine, wondering what it was that flooded through her being. Energy radiated out of her body and filled the immediate area around her. There must be, she thought, a word to describe this state. And then it came to her. Maybe. Maybe this was ecstasy.
Moira lifted herself from her bed and retrieved her dictionary. "Ecstasy (n.) a state of being beyond reason and self-control; a state of overwhelming emotion; rapturous delight; a mystic or prophetic trance. She went to her computer and inputted it. Ecstasy: The state of being beside one’s self or rapt out of one’s self; a state in which the mind is elevated above the reach of ordinary impressions, as when under the influence of overpowering emotion; an extraordinary elevation of the spirit. Used in the phrase by Dryden, “Like a mad prophet in ecstasy.”
She was right. Lightning had made her feel something so extraordinary that she’d had no words for it. Yet such words and states did exist.
Lightning. Lightning. Lightning (n.) a sudden flashing of light caused by the crashing of two electrical fields and generating energy that is visible and palpable within a broad area—like all the way from here to the rainforests of South America, thought Moira. The Big Bang (n.) the theory in astronomy that the universe originated billions of years ago from the explosion of a single mass of material so that the pieces are still flying apart.
Now that Lightning had left her for the pleasures of alcohol, Moira reflected. The pieces are still flying apart. If their love began with the Big Bang, as she suspected, for she had no other words for what had happened between them, it was only to be expected that the power of that force would draw them apart.
And so, Moira went back to knitting. Breaking and knitting. Breaking and knitting. Breaking and knitting. Watching as Lightning flashed farther and farther away, his thunder muting in recalcitrant shock waves like those of the Big Bang.