I arrived with my friends Carl and Molly at the colonial farmhouse that would be my summer home—my three months with God, the earth, and my broken body and spirit. The old, dark brown house stood only inches away from the cracked, New England road that epitomized what I loved about this part of the country. And on either side of the house were open fields, high wheat grasses on one end, and a large lawn and soon-to-be-tilled garden on the other.
Jean, the owner of this summer house, appeared by the driveway to greet us. Almost 80 years old with formal blazer, short grey hair, and cigarette in hand, she reminded me of the great novelist and friend of Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein. Only thing was that Jean, a poet herself and one of the first women to establish a publishing house for women poets, carried an unusual combination of Boston formality and an unusual earthy “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about me” look.
My eyes were drawn to her cigarette as she led my friends and I into the old farmhouse that seemed rather dark despite two floors of rooms with ample windows. Who was this woman I would live with and help out during my summer of healing? I asked myself.
After all, we had never met—only spoke by phone before her son and I met in New York City to scope each other out and make sure his mother and I would be a good fit. I had never thought about there being cigarette smoke wafting up along dark walls filled with ghost-like photographs of times gone by until it reached the room I’d live in or the ancient bed made of actual horse hair I’d sleep on!
I remember looking out the window, toward the road it faced, where my friends drove away after helping me unpack the few items I had. It felt as if my parents had just dropped me off at camp (not that I had experienced this before in my life!) and I was alone in a dark house with a stranger who smoked and seemed rather aloof as Bostonians could be.
I feared I had made a mistake in trusting divine grace to bring me here, yet I eventually fell asleep to the sweet sound of cicadas surrounding the house and trees. The weeks to follow were the beginning of magic, though, of discovering what’s possible when we show up with clear prayer and intention, and leave the rest up to God. Jean, who died several years later, would become one of numerous angels offering me retreat from the chains of pain I had carried for far too long.
Since those days with Jean and her family, I’ve learned that the grace of God shows her face when we finally surrender and hand over the reins of our limited longing—and when we’re truly ready to receive the gift that awaits us. The form it comes in can be deceiving—as Jean did with cigarette in hand and serious disposition—but it comes, ready to give of itself to the unchartered pilgrimage of our soul.
About a month ago from today, after arriving back to New Mexico from Buenos Aires and our family’s honoring of my recently-deceased father’s life, I met another angel of sorts in man’s clothing. I met an Argentinean man who appeared to me without cigarette in hand :), but with an embracing heart, passion, and laughter. Together we exchanged mystical love poems; shared—with my father’s spirit, it seemed—Argentinean songs he and I both loved; held communion on a moon-filled mesa that whispered of the infinite until early morning; and danced and laughed inside the light-filled rhythm of our newly-discovered bubble.
It’s not every day that life’s holy orchestra offers a song like this one. But it did. It came quickly, weaving these otherworldly energies with mundane realities that soon introduced their challenges to this budding relationship. It forced me to ask myself how to navigate this place where the divine and physical intersect…where tension and beauty lie and give us choice on how to proceed?
This past week, during which time I wrote less, and struggled with overwhelm and poor health, I battled this reality of receiving divine grace within the limitations of this earth journey. And while I tried to contemplate, analyze, feel, reflect, and be with the tension that built knots inside my heart and that of this relationship (quite a different energy from the heart-opening magic of weeks prior), it seemed to only create more tension, more struggle.
But today, as a double rainbow spread across the sky, and stayed with me long enough to expand my heart’s awe, I felt what I needed to do. As with Jean and her cigarette, dark house, and initial formal and cold demeanor, there was more to this gift than I could see. Much more. What if, when we’ve given up trying to figure things out, and we’ve given up our limited, frightened expectations, we actually hand it over to God, to spirit—this place from which the gift originated? What if, in this case, as in the past, I give my heart much needed space and peace of mind to listen, feel, and be with what this beloved gift is here to offer—and what I am here to receive—on my unchartered pilgrimage of the soul?
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.