Touching the Earth

car on roadWhen I was a child, my parents were fond of Sunday afternoon drives.  Sometimes, I could convince them to take me along.

One of these outings was in the Springtime.  I remember seeing field after field as I looked out the window of the backseat.  Most were brown.  Many were in patterns, like a large hand had swept its fingers in the soil creating terraced waves.  I craned my neck to look high up in the sky.  Surely only the hand of God could touch the earth like this.

Then it happened.

The car stopped and turned sharply left, away from the direction of my vision.  Now through my window, I saw a hill framed by trees, newly greened.  Three white crosses stood on the hill.

My grandmother whispered under her breath, “thank you, Jesus,” and I didn’t understand her connection.  In my mind, they reminded me of when Dorothy met the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

For years, this was a strange memory.  Even so, every time we traveled this road, I knew this hill marked the halfway point to home.

As the car continued to move, on the other side of the hill, the land burst into color.  Blades of green grass swayed in the wind.  Purples and pinks and golden yellows nodded their heads as if in conversation.  No browns here, life was bursting from the hidden earth below.

I was captivated.meadow

I asked to stop the car, and not being in any hurry, the adults complied.  I raced into the field, their protests becoming faint behind me.  I jumped into a thick bed of color.

Plucking a handful of flowers, I put them up to my nose, breathing deeply.   I caught a petal in my lips and it tasted slightly salty, more astringent.  I laid back holding a single flower up next to the sun.  The centers were about the same size.   How could that be?  I wondered.   In that instant, it clicked in my thinking, “Ah, that’s why they call it a sunflower; it brings the sun to earth!”

Someone had told me never to look at the sun, but I did look at the sun that day.  For a long time, until I saw nothing, just a black dot in the sky.  Then, I felt everything.  The sun.  The flowers.  The cooling breeze.  The warmth of the earth beneath me.  All of it was me.  I was in them and they were in me.

It was all a blurry, delightful whirl for me as a child.  This consummate joy that transcended time and space.  I awoke in a consciousness that knows its Self as Self.  Everything had changed.

It would take 50 years of  living for me to realize that this moment brought a shaktipat of awareness that had been recorded in the life of an Indian prince who became a pauper centuries before my grandmother’s Jesus was born.  I did not know about either of them at age seven, really.

My sacred fig tree was a field of Missouri wildflowers.  I did not curse its timing as Jesus did.  Nor did I fight all manner of wild imaginings as Gautama.  No.  I was completely present.  In the company of my parents and grandparents, I just embraced everyholding-sand good thing that Sunday afternoon.  I loved it all and I became from the loving.  Those moments of earth and sky becoming one in me, live in my breathing even to today.   My spirit grounded that day, and I understand why Gautama, in his moment of enlightenment, touched the earth.

– from the upcoming American Mysticism: A Christian Woman Meets the Dalai Lama