A few days after the first anniversary of my daughter Kathryn’s death, I still felt stripped of my skin. I had no protection against the pain of her bewildering life and loss. Thank God for Bill, always steady, always there, not saying much, but listening, listening. Sometimes, he listened to words, sometimes to weeping, and other times to the silence. I was wide open to the Spirit during that period. Being stripped, of course, is when Spirit can get through. Not when we’re all busy being important, plugging in and rushing around. No. There needs to be a crack for the light to shine through.
We were camping. We had lingered at Ghost Ranch near Abiqiui, New Mexico because we loved it so. Loved the quiet, the light, the colours of Earth. It seemed to be a holy place. One morning, we hiked up a box canyon, climbed a great hill and wandered around on the top, which was relatively flat. Ravens circled overhead. I had been so surprised to find them there, and delighted. I love ravens, having met them living in Yellowknife. I admire their beauty, their humour, their resilience and ability to cooperate. This morning, I was simply looking around. In the distance, I could see The Pedernal Mountain, which is painted by every artist who visits the area, it seems. It certainly catches your attention. Bill had wandered off, looking for dinosaur gizzard stones most likely (he did find one), so he wasn’t beside me when I saw what I saw.
As the sun rose higher, it suddenly lit up a rock formation — a hoodoo, I suppose. It took my breath away. It looked like a woman. Maybe Mother Mary. Maybe Mother Earth. Maybe they are one and the same, I don’t know. But there she was as clear as anything bending slightly and cradling someone very tenderly. I assumed it was a baby, but maybe it was a planet. Was it Earth? Was she Gaia or the Great Mother Goddess? The sun continued to climb, of course, and I saw this in a twinkling — the shapes and shadows were changing fast.
In those days, I still smoked, so I dumped the cigarettes on the ground, lit matches frantically and drew with the blackened match head on the cigarette paper. I wanted to remember seeing this amazing sight. The sun continued its morning climb, and soon the rock formation looked like, well, a pretty rock formation. I couldn’t see Mother Mary anymore. Whoever she was, she had slid back into the landscape. Try as I might, I could not see her.
The next morning, I took my sketch book and pencil crayons, and we set out walking up the same path. This time, Bill stayed with me to watch. And lo and behold, she appeared again. Beautiful. I sketched her and gave thanks for the wonder of it all. The painting that resulted is now in a silver frame. It hangs above the place where I pray in the morning. The Pedernal Mountain is in the background; She is in the foreground. It's called, “The Earth as I saw Her ~ July 25, 1994 9:15 a.m.”
I believe that there are seasons when the veil is thin between worlds. I have learned this from Celts, Maritimers, Mexicans, First Nations Elders and Christians who follow the ancient church calendar. And, I have also seen this in the birthing room and at the death bed. For me, Epiphany is the season to contemplate the piercing of the ordinary — when light shines through the cracks.
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