Sweetness and Strength
The Boston bombing brought a flood of memories cascading over me last night and into this morning. Suddenly, I was right back in the belly of 911, and deep into the mystery of that unforgettable day. I’ve told this story before, and I’ll tell it again, because stories are meant to be shared again, growing in power in each telling.
On the morning of the 911 bombings, I was hosting a gathering of Kindred Spirits—14 good folk who had come from all over the country for a workshop with a small group of gifted teachers and friends of mine. My little cabin had no radio nor television. I heard of the towers coming down from the participants who were arriving—shocked and numbed—to begin a sacred time together with like-minded lovers of animals, nature, and the Earth.
For awhile, as people continued to arrive, we were all in a state of suspended animation and confusion: What in the world do we do NOW? Some participants wondered how and when they would get home, as the airports had all closed down. Others wondered about friends and relatives back east. Do we continue a workshop in the face of this horrible calamity? Would it be disrespectful? Would it even be possible to focus on our topics?
Somehow, the idea came up to pass the sacred pipe around our circle. A pipe ceremony seemed appropriate. After all, the least we could do was to pray quietly together in the smoke and silence. And so I took out my pipe and moved through the ritual steps of the sacred ceremony and stillness settled around us. My pipe tends to smoke very long, and it made many, many trips around the circle. Above our heads in the cottonwood grove around us, birds sang in full glory. A breath of a warm morning breeze tickled our shoulders. In the background, the towering peaks of the Grand Tetons watched over us like a trio of grey-clad nuns.
When all the tobacco had been smoked, I put the pipe down and waited quietly. Very slowly, we began to speak our hearts around the circle. It became very clear to each and every one of us that praying was not only the least we could do. It was the MOST we could do. It was an intensely powerful thing to do, and it was a healing thing to do. Unanimously, we decided to carry on with our workshop, pausing at breaks to fill ourselves in on any updates in New York.
The pipe had guided us and centered us and calmed us, but the real wonder of that day came late that night as the stars lit up a night sky in Jackson Hole, free for the first time in memory of plane congestion. Our group was gathered at White Grass Ranch to hear the yearly pageant of the bugling elk, all deep in rut that time of year. The night was dry and clear as glass. The air so sweet, you could taste it.
As we walked, these words spilled out of my lips, coming from somewhere outside of myself: “Out here, nothing happened today. No tragedy happened today. Not out here.”
This morning, I sit looking as I write out my bedroom window to the blooming pear tree where the bees gather and sing. Here, on this plot of grass, no tragedy happened. And what I want to say is that for every plot of scarred and blood-spilled ground, there is another plot somewhere of silence and peace and beauty. For every darkness, another place of light and sweetness. These sweet places hold the energy to heal the broken bits of ground. They are medicine centers, from the tiny lawns with carefully planted pansies, to the mountain meadows. And I believe that if we are blessed to be in such a place, to be in a safe place at a time when horror strikes somewhere else, our task is to remain beautiful inside of ourselves, so that our beauty and balance can be medicine energy for all those afflicted.
I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim. Those of us who have lost loved ones, it is our task to grieve. For the rest of us, our task is to walk and speak and pray in beauty, so that others may draw from our soil of soundness.
If you are hooked to the horror of the TV today, turn it off, now.
If you are plugged into the news stations on your computer, unplug now.
If you are crying for people you did not know, stop crying now.
If you are sick inside with hopelessness, stop it now.
Go outside. Sit on the grass. Listen to a bird sing.Hum a song of healing for those who need it. Tend your gardens. Walk your dogs and hug them. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself smile and be strong. That strength is medicine that will find its way through the power of mystery to all those suffering in Boston. If you are very lucky and grace has fallen over you, you are in a place where “Nothing happened here today,” so show your gratitude with prayer, softness in your heart, and lightness in your step. These gifts will find their way to where they are needed.