The change of the seasons is the same as the boundary between sand and sea, blurred. This week it has nearly seemed Winter, Spring, and Autumn all at once in our slice of wilds.
Then to top off this conflux of seasons in these parts we saw something most unique out of any of our years living in a forest by a rushing river so far.
We don’t know for sure, but we are thinking there must have been a landslide nearby as the the river turned a bright orange-brown. We’re used to muddied stirred-up waters from time to time, after days and days of no letup in rain, but this was a departure from any normal we’ve known so far.
Here’s a snapshot at our river’s confluence that shows the stark difference between the crystalline and turquoise reflection of sky-blue of most-often versus what came down the main river for miles and for days this week:
Having the river turn a different color made it impossible not to imagine the Biblical narrative of that old waterway in Egypt turning blood red, especially as this is the very week (Passover) that story will be told in thousands of homes, around countless tables with lit candles, unleavened bread, wine and a host of other symbols to teach the children, and remind all the adults alike, the way,
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”* ~Khalil Gibran
For a festival that is full of joy and the essence of redemption, it is impossible to avoid what Kohelet, the Teacher in Ecclesiastes knew by heart,
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting…” ~ Kohelet, Ecclesiastes 7:2
It’s taken me a long while to know the half of this truth but I finally know in part that this is because it is impossible to be truly present in joy, until we have been fully present in pain. The story that brings the family of Israel around the table tonight is one of exile, bitter tears, suffering, slavery, a life source turning to blood, and blood becoming a life source. In what language can these things be understood? The language of pain.
“And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief…”* ~On Pain, Khalil Gibran
How can these things be taught or caught within our own hearts? Well, for thousands of years an ordered evening of storytelling surrounded by loved ones and warm aromas of home and hearth has endured. But what about when those kinds of traditions haven’t been passed on and or home is far away?
This morning I woke after a night of hard rainfall. I walked outside and my attention fell upon a stone path that my son had lovingly mulched for me all around the stones, yet this morning it was littered, and covered even in parts, with the mulch. The force of the rain had disturbed the ground leaving a memorial of disarray in its wake. As I surveyed the disruption I recalled some Robins I had noticed the day before, they were filtering with their beaks through some leaves at the edge of the forest… lifting leaves, leaving leaves, lifting, leaving… disrupting, disarraying, but really? They were eating and they were aerating, and they were beautiful. So was the rain.
This story was waiting for me in the early morning, gently lit by eastern rays of sun.
“Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”*~On Pain, Khalil Gibran
If you’ve read this far, I can only imagine that you too are acquainted with pain.
Tonight I pray for your comfort and I’m watching for the story, and the wonder with you… you’re not alone.
Love and Happy Passover,
P.S. please share with anyone else you know who could use some company in watching for wonder too.
I’m Raynna, a writing, photograph-taking, qigong-practicing, homeschooling-mama-of-six exploring the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and me. Subscribe to receive updates directly in your inbox.
*From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923) by Khalil Gibran. This poem, On Pain, is in the public domain.