Thursday, January 06, 2005

Shadows and silkweeds and the possibility of a prayer

Leaving early (early) tomorrow morning for phase two of my vacation. Wakey-wakey arrives at 3:30am so I can bus it up to Chi-town. After that its about an hour rickety commute up to Wilmette where I can capitulate for a couple of hours into the clandestine womb of prayer. In all candor, I hate praying--hate praying!!!! Or rather, I hate praying for myself...hate asking my own myopic heavily Westernized ideology of a Diety for assistance. For wayward orientation. For direction. Even if I'm lodged on a kyak in a remote corner of the Pacific with nothing in paw but a limp compass and a box of stale cracker-jack to subside on, I'm more wont to rely on my own "interior" sense of navigation--where I think I should be going--rather than humbly asking for guidance.

I come from a family deeply rooted in spiritual soil. Growing up we were known as the freakish family who squinted our eyes, lowered our collective chins and "prayed" in public restaurants prior to taxed meals. My parents were never embarassed by this--thanking a supreme being for nourishment (in the similar fashion of our Neanderthal relatives offered gratitutde thanked the spirit of the hunted animal prior to consumption) but myself and my sister were horrified. In the mid-eighties, the age of Max Hedron and ALF, praying in public places was a far cry from posh.

When I was around the size of a firehydrant, my father would come into my room, tuck me in, bow on both knees and pray. He would pray for his childs safety. Pray that his child would be healthy. Pray that his child would know what was right--for his future partner and that the two of them would be blessed. Often, during the prayer, dad and I would volley the lyrics to "Now I lay thee down to sleep" Dad chanting the first line, his son, thirty years younger with a snotty lip, echoing the refrain.

Mother always prayed in the early hours accompanying the gravitational tilt of the planet into the solar tug of dawn. Some of my most cherished memories of my mother were waking up at 5am and watching mother huddled in her green housecoat sipping weak tea, a splayed, thoroughly annotated NIV splattered across her lap like a wounded dove.

Mom always had "prayer partners." Over the past holdiay I tumbled across a huge literary "tome" chronicling decades of my mother's spiritual epiphanies. In one box alone, I found about thirty spiral notebooks, each brimming with mother's swirly blue-inked cursive handwriting.
These notebooks contained my own matraich's "Blogs"--her spiritual yearnings, her humble requests for her progeny. Like her eldest, mom could write for hours; but unlike her firstborn, mother didn't rely on her own intelligent or acuemen; she mastered the capacity to whittle her own ego and ask for guidance in something whose worth transcends temporal material satisfaction. More than any other human I have ever met--my mother has put her stock into something higher.

Don't get me wrong. I have no aversion to prayer; towards the art of supplication and praying--
I've never held qualms abouy uttering "gratitude" prayers. Prayers of thanx and joy. I once heard a Philosophy prof. deliver an emotionally riveting semantic sermon on how the words "thoughtful" and "thankful" were derived from the same etymological prefix.

"At one time a 'thankful person' was synonmous with a 'thoughtful' or 'intelligent preson.'"

The prayers for the departed also hover on the tip of my palate like a canker sore. Uncle Mike (whose an ornery hybrid between Gandalf the Good and a spiritual Socrates) always insists to remember the souls who don't have support. Every time we drive past an open cemetary, I sense Mike uttering the words for those souls that have "abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spirtual world."

On my first sojourn to the House Of worship, the caretaker, Eve, ferried me around, addressed me as "honey," and I sat upstairs, head down and uttered prayers for my late-father and grandparents.

Six months later, at Greenlake, I encountered Eve again. She didn't remember me, but when I accosted her and thanked her for giving me that tour (mentioning to her that I happened to be in chicago for my grandmothers funeral at the time) Eve immediately reclined her lunch tray, clasped the lids of her eyes shut and submitted the prayer of the departed in the middle of the cafeteria. The fact that my identity was a blur to her was merely secondary.


After grousing to Nick the Writer and Shannon Moore about yearning to find a short story that grabs me by the labels--I found one. A story entitled "Bamboo" published in the chicago Tribune five years ago. I stumbled upon it via Microfish (ick)'s a brilliant story. A yuppie going through a divorce falls in love with the chain-smoking female carpenter constructing his sun deck. It's been, by far, the best short story I've read in the last three months.

The part of the story that melted into me was one that carpenter, who it turns out was an ex-priest, told her amor that she left the seminary after reading a story about national Geographic about a succinct type of bird that migrates thousands of miles every year, to this one remote island, sheerly to mate.

The carpenter relays a story to this yuppie--how a science experience was conducted. Scientists incubated several of these birds in Scandanvia; hatched their eggs; kept the winged creatures indoors in a covered cage. When the brids swiftly arrived into sexual maturity, they were released into the atmosphere for the first time and they immediately new where to fly. They knew exactly which part of the planet to flock to in order to continue their species. They new where to go, even though they had never been there.

I've mulled over this analogy alot over the past couple of days. That spiritually imprinted in all of us is the ability to know exactly, our purpose---not only to know, but also, perhaps, to live out our destiny as well.

1 comment:

arya said...

that's deep, i like that. maybe that explains why i keep getting myself out of a big mess that seems impossible to escape from, i know my island resides elsewhere...