Feathers In A Jar
I lay on my stomach and listened to harmonies of the Bodhisattvas. The singing of the sutras always calmed me. I could not sing along. My head was turned, cradled in the crook of my arms, eyes shut, listening. I could feel the gentle yet essential tugging between my shoulder blades as they knitted up the opened flesh there.
I awoke not realizing I had slept. The images from the songs blending into my dreams. Gabriel was speaking to me. She was always speaking. Messenger Angels love the sound of their voice. It is finished She was speak-singing to me and now you are ready. Lulled by the music of Her voice and carried along by the golden notes of Her trumpet I fell to earth.
Sunrise. There just coming up over the trees atop the hill. The silvery scars on my back shudder and twitch as I roll over to see the sun rise. How many aeons of time has it been? Tears roll down my face and my body is warmed as the birds raise their voices to greet a new day.
Voices. Singing. What was I supposed to do? I remember singing… Then a grief so strong overwhelms me and I curl up in a ball and now my tears are bitter and sting my eyes. I have lost something and I don’t know what it is.
Suddenly there are arms around me, I am encircled in warmth and love. I hear a voice telling me over and over why so young with so much sadness? Why such heartbreak over the birth of a new day? I am rocked in her strong arms, and I burrow into her ample warmth and sob until my heart lies empty within me. I have forgotten. I only know that I lost something so wonderful. And now I am lost and I don’t know what will happen.
My name is Ann she tells me, rocking me in her arms. What a surprise to find you here on my morning walk. When all I thought to see was sunlight on the leaves, and perhaps pick some apples for my breakfast. Are you hungry? There, that’s better. You can’t cry forever.
She turns me in her arms, there kneeling on a small hill, amid the gift of sun, trees and birds. I see graying hair, the glimpse of an inner beauty that transforms and warm smiling eyes. Your name? She coaxes, wiping my tears away with careworn fingers.
I open my mouth and sutras spill from my lips: Happiness in this world. Happiness in this world. Happiness. I sing-say that line. I remember something… Happiness… Startled grin and accepted understanding from Ann. I am sure in my soul that she has picked up stranger things then I along the pathways of her life.
Let us go and have something to eat she says, easing me to my feet. I crumple back down to the warming earth. How… I don’t remember walking. But still, we try again, and together slowly, step by step we head down the hill and to the stone house nestled between two huge oak trees. My feet hurt, but it is a different pain than the one coming from every beat of my emptied heart. Different than the twitching ache of remembrance rippling the skin of my upper back.
We feast on warm cereal, eggs and milk and crusty bread fresh from the oven. No apples, since my finding had saved that adventure for another day. I chew slowly savoring each taste and delighting in the simplicity of Ann’s soft voice and the dry husk of my heart begins to fill just a little bit.
Body needs taken care of, my mind begins to come awake. I try again to tell her my name and I manage to sing-chant more sutras to my frustration: Adorned with all kinds of gems. Adorned. With all kinds. Of Gems. Ann laughs with joy. Well! I will call you Adore until we can figure things out.
I smile and wonder. Adore. I think it works and my eyelids suddenly droop. I’m exhausted from my journey. Journey? I remember something… Ann’s hands cool on my forehead as she tucks me into a bed to rest and as I fall to sleep I think I hear the golden echo of a horn.
Days pass and I help Ann with the simple enduring tasks of her daily life. I still have no speech but sutra-songs and that seems fine with her. She begins to sing along and the work goes well. I am disturbed one morning on my way back from picking apples when I see a flight of birds, sunlight on their feathers and I drop my basket and reach up….. And Ann wonders at the tears glistening on my cheeks when I return. Wonders at the smile that goes with them.
I only have sutras to tell her what I remembered, there with the rustle-flap of the wings and the soaring beauty of wind rushed air: This my land remains safe and unharmed. My land. Safe. Unharmed. This my land. She hums and we peel and chop apples, creating pies and preserves.
There is concern when Winter months arrive and I wake up chilled in the morning to coax the fire on the kitchen hearth. The third day that a feather as appeared. Always just one. Always just underneath where I have been sleeping. Always perfect and I think… But then I don’t remember and I put the new feather next to the others in a jar on the windowsill.
The sun shines on them each morning, struggling through the clouds and for an instant or two I see not three feathers in a jar but host apon host of winged beings and… I fall to my knees and sutra-sing the new day into existence: Happiness in this world. Happiness.
Winter deepens and the ache between my shoulder blades turns sharp and with it my memories. I promised. I lost because I wanted to find. I turned away from the joy to bring another to the choir. I know this as I know the light shining from within Ann, and I know it won’t be long now.
She sips her broth, sitting up in her bed and tells me she can see something. My eyes are different and my chin has purpose. Ann is forever giving body parts character. Arms insistent, nose grumpy and now purposeful chin. I smile and say-sing my new understanding: Since I attained Enlightenment. Since. Attained.
Anna asks if there will be pain and I tell her the pain is my own, because I chose it so. Yours will only be joy and the sorrow of a life lived well and now moving on to the next. Will I remember she asks. I never know. For I have forgotten, but then I remember that it is always thus.
Ann sighs and smiles and leans back among her pillows, wrinkles radiating from her deep eyes as she looks into mine. I am filled with pain and I take more because that is always thus. We sing-dance-sutras as the wings burst from my back, and Gabriel laughs and calls, Her horn triumphant.
When Ann’s neighbors arrive to pick up their weekly pies and jams and lovely quilts we have made they wonder. The house empty yet warm and happy, and if there was a feather or three or more found resting in among shards of glass on a windowsill, they did not speak of it to anyone.
I wrote this nearly five years ago close to my birthday. I am all about angels. Almost every religion and/or culture has angels. Winged beings. Sometimes messengers, sometimes deities in their own right. I dreamed this story and I import it from one of my other blogs to share with you here.
A Buddhist (and feminist) twist on a story of an angel sent on a mission to bring a dying woman’s soul back to heaven with her. Perhaps a metaphor for the journey we take on our way to Enlightenment. A journey of compassion, of sacrifice, a shared journey of Love.
I have read the stories where angels appear in all their divine glory to mortals. I wondered about a different Path. Where the angel too must become mortal, shed her wings, forget her origins. Must first come to love and cherish the soul she is to bring back with her. Must experience and understand mortal life and living.
And then must absorb the mortal pain of passing, the pain of leaving that life behind, to take that pain within her and become transformed by it and both, together now, divinely Blessed can move on to the next plane of existence.