I have always wanted to find God the way others find Her(Him/It?)
Yet the moments for me when we’ve crossed have always been at the most surprising moments:
When I was dancing at 2am, in that hidden side room from the club (no “enhancements” involved).
The homeless man counting his change. He would often be on my street when I lived in Allston during college. I used to watch him out my window while he collected bottles that entire autumn . One morning I sat with him after we gathered plastic together. The moment our fingers met when we shook hands.
Sharing a cake with my other homeless friend when he was 2 years sober. I don’t bake but I baked a cake for him to celebrate this. I knew it was an important day for him. I remember the moment, us sitting in the cold sun on the steps of Marsh Chapel. We were at the perfect angle that, even on the most frigid and blustery days, the sun hit us so strongly that, when I closed my eyes,I could pretend that we were at the beach and the sound of the rushing cars were the waves…
Sitting on a bench when I was 18 reading Malcolm X’s description of when he took his Hajj journey. For some reason I understood how he felt – and me, this anorexic white girl having her own miraculous opening in Autumn in Boston, having my own little Hajj. I sat on the bench and felt these tears of joy.
So this morning, this year, on January 1st, I had my own grace of God. I woke up needing to go to the beach. My friend and I were staying at a remote area in Bali (there’s a small spot that exists still, believe it or not) and I found myself walking through the jungle and little temples to get to beach – 30 km of black sand and strong waves – Balian Beach – that’s known as a sacred and powerful area.
But today it wasn’t about the beach. It was about the path beside the beach that went along the farmer’s fields. I cut through cow fields and kept marveling at the sound of the wind, the light cutting through clouds, the feeling of dirt under my feet, the way the light hit the stones and the peeling-off paint on the abandoned fishing boat. I was happily invisible which doesn’t often happen. No one gawked at me, stopped me to talk or wanted anything. The farmers let me blend in. And for most of my walk, I was alone…
Except for the cows. Now I have a secret fear of cows. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because of when I was 5 and I had to creep through the field with my uncle- the field where THE Bull lived-the only field that lead to the lake so we could go fishing… All I could think about was Ferdinand the Bull and the matadors and the cartoons I had watched…and so I imagined…one wrong move…and I was done for. That day I happened to be wearing a Ghostbusters shirt which was red. That year my favorite color was red.
And on this day…30 years and then some…I felt myself walking softly through the cow field. I love how cows watch you when you walk. I used to run through the fields in Arkansas when I worked on an organic farm and would laugh as 30 pairs of eyes would turn and watch me sweating in the 95 plus degree heat.
That same place – in Arkansas – was where I turned 21 years old. On a “dry” ranch so we had to smuggle in cheap wine to the pond to celebrate my turning of age. Of course it wasn’t so much the drinking that was fun as it was all of us around a bon fire, swimming naked, cooled down from the day’s heat, we were so young…it was so perfect. I lived in overalls that summer and my skin was dark brown from working in the fields. My favorite color was pink that summer.
That same night, my birthday, I was walking back alone to our cabin and I stopped to talk to the water buffalo. The ranch I was working on housed international farm animals as a way to support the most sustainable ways to farm globally (the Heifer Project). So we had water buffalo there…which, oddly enough, I saw plenty of when living in Niger the previous year. For some reason, that night, it made sense for me to sit down in front of the fence of the buffalo. Just me, a little wire, mostly space, the moonlight…and the buffalo. I could see the glint of his metal nose ring in the moonlight. He walked up so close to me – we were probably just a foot away from one another – maybe closer. And we stayed there – me kneeling – him standing. Perfect eye level. I don’t know how long we stayed but it was a long time. I can’t explain it but it all made perfect sense. I teared up. I felt like I became the buffalo. It sounds stupid, I know – but when you feel this connection to nature –whether it happens through rocks or the dirt or the ocean or the sky or a plant or an animal – it’s beyond logic. It touches your soul and you realize we’re all connected – we’re all one – no more – no less. Yogis try to get this all the time…and sometimes we get lost on the way and end up separating ourselves even more…but what we’re preparing ourselves…in any of our “spiritual” practice – is for that moment when we’re “caught.” When we actually don’t know what’s going on. We’re not so important and all-knowing. We’re children bearing witness to the aweness of being…and we are so IN it – that we know it. There’s no need to figure out some system or formula or figure out who’s doing what or worry if someone’s better or if we look stupid…we are so caught, so immersed that we just are IT.
That’s what I live for. To make love and forget myself. In the whole world. In playing music. In talking. In walking. In lying around. In teaching. To make love in all that I do and forget myself – and in that..that’s when I remember who I am.
So I got to remember…on January 1st..on my walk through the cow fields. Because I stopped that morning to talk to this cow. Or actually just look at her. And she looked at me and reminded me of the water buffalo back in Arkansas. I was a little timid. She looked at me with her wide brown eyes. And then suddenly, she opened her mouth and the longest most purple-grey tongue came out. Completely prehistoric (I was expecting pink and soft). And she licked me. She couldn’t stop licking me. I wasn’t sure if she was going to bite me but no..she licked me. And I cried. Thank God no one was around. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was crying. My friend later said it was that the cow liked the salt on my hands. Maybe it was just that…But that didn’t matter. For me, some boundary was broken. Me the human. Me the separate one…traveling to see nature. I had forgotten what I was. I hadn’t felt my oneness in quite some time. It made me want to put my hands in the dirt and pull out beets and pick tomatoes and make a really smelly handmade scarecrow.