I saw the red flower, a trumpet flower, before it saw me. It was there for me, only for me. I knew it, and she knew it. Just like the one red rose in San Diego over Thanksgiving that coughed self-consciously to get my attention (like the rose in the Little Prince with the baobab tree), this trumpet flower appeared for me against the bare blue sky, calling to me to look up as I limped up the hill, complaining to myself about so very many things. My body hurt. My head hurt. My feet hurt. My brain hurt. My life hurt.
The depression had been getting bad. It was moving toward despair, and I was pretty sure I didn’t want it anymore. I was taking Pat’s direction to exercise and had walked and walked and was sore in body and mind. Now the red trumpet flower called me, and I looked up and when I did a thrill started down at my aching toes and crept up my ankles and legs and goose pimpled straight up my thighs and up to my neck and shocked my scalp wide open and reddened my ears and itched my eyes and suddenly water poured down my face and I thrilled and thrilled and a bird began trilling and I didn’t notice the walk anymore. I didn’t notice the pain in my body or the heaviness in my heart any longer.
The trumpet flower was there only for me. She was there just for me. The sidewalk was there just for me. It was all just for me.
Every time I have needed to have this little thing I call a life saved I walk in nature and this great beneficence appears and reminds me that everything is here for me. The chair on which I now sit is here just for me. It is here for my support. My shoes are here just for my support. The computer keys are here just for my support.
When I was in college, I only wanted to read poetry. When I could read the poetry of William Butler Yeats or Theodore Roethke or Galway Kinnell I felt safe and knew that all was right in the world. If I felt off in any way, I opened a book and blinded myself with the light of the words before me. It was the same as when I was a little girl and could climb the oak tree and “see” the things sparkling and hear celestial choirs in the moss or in the plough mud and conch shells. It was then I knew I was safe, and all was well in the world. Nothing could harm me. I had a sense of rightness, and I knew – I absolutely knew – there was no other place I was supposed to be. Carlos Castaneda was to say many years later that everyone has a “right” spot. They always know it. Sometimes it is only one or two feet to the right or left from where they are standing, but it is sensed as absolute perfection. It is the place where everything is as it should be. It is “right.” Nature, poetry, – this is what brings me to my “rightness.”
And years later I was to have this feeling again – the absolute knowing I was in the perfect place, and all was as it should be. This was with my true teacher, at her feet, on a marble floor, in India.
They say not to quit before the miracle. It seems to always come; this beneficence, this kindness that reminds me that I am deserving of mystery and sweetness and miracles.
I don’t know why hardship comes. I don’t know why we are disappointed so many times, why we are betrayed, why people leave us, why those we love die so cruelly, why our animals are hurt and sometimes killed right before our eyes. I do not know why children starve when some of us have so much food.
But I do know God appears as trumpet flowers sometimes to remind us of His spectacular Presence, and that She calls to us sometimes to look up. I do know I may place my forehead now at the feet of my teacher today, the Red Trumpet Flower.
I do know I am in a hurry to find answers to the questions I ask. I have learned to love the questions themselves, as Rilke said.
And as T.S. Eliot said, the choice is either fire or fire. The fire of ignominy and continued darkness as my shadow is avoided as I walk, eyes cast downward, focused on the often-unbearable pain in my feet. Or the fire of burning as I turn my passion toward the longing, the starvation, the thirst for God that has been driving me without cessation all my life. It is a thirst that must be quenched. I am literally starving and will burn for this food – gladly and forever. I yearn for this fire.
The red trumpet flower called me, and I looked up and answered the call.
And my pain fell away…