Saturday, December 19, 2009

a running season

i did not always run in the winter. there was a time that i, like so many others, would follow the patterns of on-season and off-season, and take some respite over the winter.

part of it was the belief in recovery time, to let the body, with its accumulated wear and tear and nicks and scrapes and outright injuries and assorted breakdowns, have the chance to recuperate. part of it, too, was the desire for free time, to release the mind from the continual pressures of work and school and home and humanity and let it roam free to grow and find itself in an ever-expanding world. part of it though--and as much as i tried to not think about it--was the need for spiritual time, to reconnect with the more important things in life, things forgotten or misplaced or abandoned or unfinished or never even begun, but whose presence ultimately cannot be denied.

the last part was something my grandparents held with deep conviction. given their religious proclivities, it coincided seamlessly with the observance of the Advent season. and in accordance with the strictures of this time for piety and self-reflection, they would gradually shut down all wordly activities of the body and mind and release themselves from the mundane to follow the messages of the spiritual and the sacred. and in the twilights that led into Christmas, they would seek to reconnect with the sublime.

i was with them much of this time. being a child, i took their lead, and followed the patterns of their lives. and so in the evenings, after we'd eaten and cleaned and dried and seated and the day had fallen into dusk, we'd gather the wood and start the fire and come together to ponder the mysteries of the twilight, our eyes turning towards the embers in the darkness for the warmth in the hearth and the flickering of the light. and slowly, surely, softly, there would be silence, and then there would be stillness, and then there would be just ourselves, with our souls alone in the depths of the winter night.

and it was then that we'd recommit to all that which we held most sacred, and reaffirm our faith in the things most divine, and restate our promises to act upon them so as to make this world--our world--a better place.

which was not easy. because we knew that in this world, our world, we weren't just by ourselves. and in the darkness we'd see the sparks that broke off from the flames and then glowed and spun and rose so briefly and then were carried away in the draft to fade into the depths of the darkness stretched so vast above us, and we'd realize who we'd lost.

and at those times, i would look at my grandfather, and say: we're so few. so few. and we've lost so many. too many.

my grandfather would just gaze at me quietly and repeat to me: i know. i know. and then he would pause, and nod, and finally respond with the same message he had always given every year: we'll close ranks, and we'll reform the lines, and we'll guard the fire for one more night, so that there may be just one more day.

for years, i lived by those words and kept to those promises and held to the calling of the seasons. for the sake of the spirit, for the sake of this world, for the sake of all souls.

but then, one Advent, in the years long after my grandfather's passing, and near the end of my grandmother's time, she and i were seated alone together late one Christmas Eve recounting all the fires of all the seasons before, and in midst of our reveries and in the stillness of the evening she came upon a revelation that glowed like the coming of a great multitude of stars long lost but rediscovered to bring their lights once more to all the spirits caught forlorn within the abyss...and their message blazed greater than all the minions of all the darkness of all the void.

and at that moment, she paused, and then she came out from within her shadows and then she looked at me and then she sighed and then she began to cry. and then she spoke, in tears that held back the silence that heralded the coming of all our eternities: the fire wasn't meant to stay in one place, you know, it wasn't meant to be hidden. it was meant to be seen. it has to be seen. if anyone is going to find it, it has to be seen.

and at that point, she realized what it was going to lead her to say, and she broke down and wept with what came next: and that's why i'm going to let you go. because i know i have to let you go. you're the little bird who's been in the nest, and now it's time for you to fly away...the fire goes with you.

i didn't know it, but that was the last time we would ever talk like that again.

in the years since, i've thought a lot about that moment, i've thought a lot about what she said. it's haunted me. it haunts me still.

for my part, i've done my best to incorporate it into my life. not because she asked, but because i know she was right. i stopped following the seasons. i stopped taking the winter respite. i stopped with the Advent and Christmas break. now, instead, i run. i run all the time. especially all the time.

but that does not mean i have forsaken the things my grandparents taught me. if anything, i've taken them even more to heart.

because you see, i've come to believe--i've come to know--that the important things, the sacred things, are not just about what we believe or commit or affirm or act, but about what we live and how we do so. and so now when i run, i run not just for the building of the body, but also for the freedom of the mind and the transfiguration of the spirit. now when i run, i run towards greater truths. and those truths require my entire being; they require all of me.

because the fire isn't meant to burn for just a night or a day nor for a winter or a season. the fire--creation's fire, the sacred fire, our fire--was meant to burn forever.

like the coming of a great multitude of stars long lost but rediscovered to bring their lights once more to all the spirits caught forlorn within the abyss...with a message that blazes greater than all the minions of all the darkness of all the void.

and that message is eternity.

1 comment:

Fred (aka ace) said...

Thank you. A very powerful and insightful thing to read in the midst of the holidays, season's ending, and life. Train and live well.