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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Pissarro Family Legend

We are allowed to love ourselves.

We are allowed to show up. We are allowed to take the compliment even when we fall short of our own standards.

We are allowed to determine the standards.

We are allowed to talk about how hard it is to love ourselves. We are allowed to enjoy our own simple company. We are allowed to release our grip. To revel in the small days. To have just one or two good friends.

We are allowed to think of our family, whatever its shape, as worthy of a crest.

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spiral-jetty-2

… forgiveness is not rational. One can seldom find a reason to forgive or be forgiven. Forgiveness is often undeserved. It may require a dimension of justice (penance, in traditional terms), but not always, for what it holds sacred is not fairness, but self-respect and community. Forgiveness does not wipe away guilt, but invites reconciliation. And it is as important to be able to forgive as it is to be forgiven.


-Sara Moores Campbell, Into the Wilderness

He invites us to call up a regret we hold, a mistake.  Through our restless quiet echoes the faint string of notes we each play: I wish I had  and I wish I hadn’t and if only.  The salt, he tells us, is that regret, that unforgiven act or omission.  In water, it never vanishes entirely — there is no forgetting —  though the hold it has on us dissipates.   It joins with the larger body of life, of surrender, of renewal.”Anyone who is so moved,” he says, “may come up and add a pinch of salt to the water.”

One by one, the congregants rise.  Does music play?  It’s hard to hear above the gathering notes of memory.  Our collective, unspoken remorse finds its chord and travels along the thread of bodies.  We shuffle and nod to one another. We make our way to the place where we are allowed to let go.

At the front rest two clear vessels, soap-bubble delicate and huge as bellies.  Water catches golden light filtering in from an October sun. Two deep platters of salt welcome a pinch or a fistful, depending. Some of us, I confide later, could do with a shovel.  Each of us drops our quantity of crystals in through the glass mouth.  The salt bursts into tendrils and swirls to a cloud. In one motion, our mistake both falls and rises, dissolving into light.  As we watch it go, each of us says these words:

“I forgive myself and begin again in love.”

We make our way back along that strand holding us to the place we started.  Something is changed, though.  The path feels emptied somehow.  The rows of seats, more capacious.

I watch the last of the congregants weave through the space.  Each of them, like me, carries these sorrows, these hurts.  We recognize the damage we have certainly caused.  We can see how it lives on not only in us but around us in the small world we inhabit.

Each of them, like me, goes on anyway.

For this one moment, alongside the unlikely echo of a shared chord, we are free to give way to forgiveness.

We begin again, together, in love.


Image: Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1970

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Family Tree

My former mother-in-law is sitting on the cafeteria floor when I arrive. She’s come to watch Bug’s karate class. I slide down next to her. She leans over and touches her head to my shoulder. She smiles.

We have not seen each other in 6 years.

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The first mistake was the one you made.
The second was thinking it had
forgotten you. What will the third be?
Do you let it climb naked
onto your back and ride
you like a name?
Do you give it tea, your ear, a year
or three to chatter itself empty?
Do you build Hadrian’s wall
and repel any breach?
Do you involve the police?
Maybe you rest your arm
across its bristling shoulders and say
Thank you
but I’ve got this
now.

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The bed needed a new orientation. Mildew had flowered on the window panes. Stink bugs had built their incubators and mausoleums in the corners of the wells. All of that had to go. Vacuum and cloth, then clean linens, then the pillowcases with the dragonflies and tiny birds in butter yellow, in the green of ferns.

Now, the head of the bed is to the wall under the cascade of family photographs. Its foot is closer to the windows. The wintry morning light, low in the east, falls through the sheer curtains and rouses me to meet the day.

It is a fine thing to nestle into a heap of feathers and foam, to unfurl the tucked wings of a story. A whole sack of gold is nothing compared to a long moment’s gaze out at a hazy day. Up above, four sepia 8×10’s in their mismatched frames keep a gentle watch. Grandfather, grandmother, father, mother. Such smiles on those faces! And each of them, so young, so very bright.

Now, as before, we share a name.

For eighteen months, I kept them near my feet. Their gazes were unsettling. Their judgment, subtle. In another time and place, I would have stayed. They all did.

When the bed found its new direction, something else slid with a whisper into its proper alignment. From this place, their smiles are guileless. Patient. Even kind. I have stopped looking at them now that they linger above my tousled cocoon. Their presence is still palpable, but less worrying. They are in the place I don’t let my gaze linger: back, behind.

Here, just flesh, just bed. I settle the weight of my 38 years into the embrace of the day as it begins to stir. I feel the give and accept the invitation. My eyes drink in the quiet light, the quilt warming my skin, and the page as it breathes awake, opening in my lap.

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