Elizabeth is the Mom of one of my young archery students. We have been working together for a least a year. And somewhere in recent history Elizabeth had an article published in the Beachcomber our local weekly paper. Of course it got lost before I could read it and just yesterday she emailed the link to me. I am so taken by this that I am delivering it to you with her OK of course. This is priceless and Oh So Camino.
This Year, “More Leaning Against Black”
Something strange happened to me a few weeks ago — a winter gift — that I’ve been pondering ever since.
It was early in the morning, and already I was failing. I’d failed to meditate — my heart just wasn’t in it. I’d failed to get to my early morning exercise class on time. There were no spaces left when I got there, so I turned around and drove back home.
As I stepped out of my car on that black, starlit morning, nothing felt quite right. I didn’t want to go back into my house. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t know what I wanted, or what could make me feel better. So, for lack of a better idea, I decided to just lean against my car and look up.
And right as I looked up, the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen sailed right over my house.
Was that star a special gift meant just for me on that winter morning? Was it a custom-ordered shooting star for a lady who really needed to see some brightness?
I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it. Having grown up in a Christian church, I remember the words from scripture about the even-handedness of natural occurrences: “God makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” I don’t think that star was custom ordered just for me.
But it wasn’t just for anybody. It wasn’t for somebody who’d slept in. It wasn’t even for somebody who’d been extra virtuous and gotten to her 6 a.m. exercise class on time. It was for somebody who found herself in a place between things — between being active and being still, between dark and light, between the car and the house. Somebody who didn’t know what to do or where to go, and who, in that moment, just stood there with open eyes.
It can be a hard thing, not knowing what to do; not knowing what’s going to happen next; being in an in-between place. We’ve all got a lot of not knowing in our lives. It’s like dark matter, the stuff we just can’t predict or figure out; the stuff that, somewhat disconcertingly, scientists tell us, makes up the vast majority of the universe.
We need to see not only darkness, but light. Not only failure and confusion, but also brightness and clarity. We need a field of vision wide enough to take all of that in. And we also need to leave room for all of the in-between things; all the dark matter; the things we just can’t pin down or understand.
I read a folk tale recently about a man who asks a beautiful woman to marry him. The woman says yes, but on one condition: The man must never look into a magical pail she possesses.
The man agrees, and he and the woman are married. But of course, the temptation is too great, and one day the man ends up looking into the pail. He thinks what he’s done is no big deal, because when he looks into the pail, he finds it empty.
But his wife says, “You fool — you’ve ruined everything”. And she disappears before his very eyes.
What was in that pail? Nobody knows. Maybe not even the woman knew. But without that bit of mystery, the woman wasn’t who she really was. By trying to figure out everything about his wife — by not allowing her to possess her own mystery — her husband lost her.
We lose a lot when we try to banish mystery from our lives; when we try to figure everything and everybody out; when we have an agenda for every situation. And maybe, most especially, when we try to comprehensively figure out, analyze and categorize ourselves.
This year I’m going to try to do less of that. I’m going to be less quick to call something a failure or a success. And I’m going to be more quick to admit there are things I just don’t understand, like a strangely-timed shooting star on a cold winter morning.
A favorite childhood poem of mine by Mary O’Neill ends: “Think of what starlight and lamplight would lack; diamonds and fireflies, if they couldn’t lean against black.”
I’m going to do more leaning against black this year. I don’t want to miss those mysterious gifts that only not knowing can give.
— Elizabeth Fitterer is an islander and a member of the Puget Sound Zen Center.
OhSoCamino loves, Felipé.
5 thoughts on “From A Friend”
Thank you Phil for sharing Elizabeth’s beautiful reflection.
Hi Jean ~ how are things? I loved that story. It has to do with paying attention which we talked about in early December I think. Anyway she was in the zone there. Good to hear from you. Felipé.x
Thank you for sharing Elizabeth’s article, it was great! When I walked the Camino in Spain I was driven to start walking each day well before sunrise so that I could consider the darkness and the transition to day. That darkness reveals so much that I never knew before.
I write this as I travel from Valencia to Leon on a train in order to re-walk the two days into Astorga that I rushed through on my 2016 walk.
Continue to be ‘so good’ and to supply us with thought provoking ideas each day.
Hugs and love from España.
Ronaldo ~ yes, wasn’t that a good one. Maybe she will have more for us in the future. And there was something special about getting out on the trail before dawn and have that light come up from behind and form those long shadows ahead among other things. Best of luck with your current mission there in Astorga. Felipé.
This is just so, well, perfect. I have shared it with a few friends for whom it is extraordinarily timely. It is for Jo and I as well. You listened to the call to post this with a keenly tuned spiritual ear. So helpful.
Hoping I-5 weather is okay for my trip through the passes in a couple fo days. I’ll keep you posted.
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