It's All Around Us ∞ My Story of Becoming Joyful Abundance
Setting the scene (please listen as you read):
“It's all around us,” the young girl tells herself, as she washes her face. She is afraid to close her eyes for fear of what might sneak up behind her. That's why she runs up the cement steps in the house, even though she knows that her father will yell at her. But she also knows that if she's the last person downstairs, she dare not be slow, for fear of the darkness behind her, which never fails to snake its cold fingers around her neck...that is, if she isn't cautious and prepared at all times.
“It's all around us,” she says, and soap gets into her eyes because she's afraid to close them.
She's afraid of the hand that will reach through the mirror if she isn't vigilant. She knows that there are other voices, other limbs and wills and histories, that live in this place—uncomfortably jammed into the tight space where humans throw their weight and their voices around with loud authority.
She has been superstitious from an early age. No stepping on cracks, gazing too long into other people's eyes, shaking hands, or spilling salt without throwing a pinch of it behind her left shoulder.
The wicked voices in her head whisper and collude, waiting for her to make a mistake, waiting for her to stumble.
Thunder roars through the sky, and she puts the covers over her head, as if they were a different sky—one that didn't crackle with lightning or sounds that rumble through her senses.
She is a bundle of anxiety and nerves. All the adults say so. Everything she sees is a disaster. She herself is a walking prophecy, one that smolders with the promise of a sudden apocalypse. She closes her eyes, and there she finds hell fire and hungry ghosts, demons and torture. She wonders if she is crazy or if her dreams are a portal into a primal memory that only she has access to.
She is jealous of the people around her, especially the pretty girls with ringlets in their hair and a spring in their step. “Why do other people seem to create and live in such beautiful worlds?” she grumbles to herself. Why do they seem to exist inside rooms that are verdant and green, full of mossy carpets and singing, harp-playing dryads? Those worlds are humid, tropical, saturated with magic. But her worlds are full of cobwebs, dryness, death. No people, only a host of spirit beings rattling the cage of their undoing.
She is jealous of the people whose eyes are full of love, hope, radiance. She wonders if they've ever been to the places she has. She tries to imitate them, but she falters awkwardly in their footsteps. Everything green that she tries to grow eventually dies. When she attempts to lovingly coax beauty out with her hands or her voice or her thoughts, she finds it crumbling like dust before her eyes. None of it has the luster she can only imagine.
Her life feels like an empty catacomb. She is old before her time.
After many years, she has at least mastered the art of convincing imitation. She is considered beautiful,intelligent, engaging, interesting. To her, it's all a sham, but she has learned how to get by. All in the service of one day running away from the gray creations of her nightmares, of escaping all those things which threaten to drag her down, which must of necessity be of this world even though they seem to be invisible to most people.
So she learns to fly.
At first she teeters a few feet above the earth, suspended in the air like a cartoon animal that has accidentally run off a peak and has only now discovered that it is not supported by the strict mandates of gravity. But she keeps at it, and she keeps at it, until she can graze the tops of trees and telephone poles. People around her say that they never lucid-dream, and that they wish they had that sort of talent, that sort of capacity. She remains quiet when people state their longing. Like everything else, she's learned to keep her gift a secret.
One quiet morning, when everyone is still asleep and the sky is full of stars and darkness and slumber, she decides that she will make her escape. She has been studying flight for many years now, quietly—in stolen moments and unseen corners, while everyone else is busy laughing and being customarily oblivious to the horribleness of it all. She has been telling herself for years that she will gain egress from all the things that threaten to drag her down, that act as unwanted ballasts for her dreams of weightlessness and starlight, of a place scrubbed clean of the residue of the earth.
She finds herself taking off, going higher, higher, higher than she has ever gone before. At first she is elated. The air is crisp and clean and cool—it blasts against her face, which makes her pulse quicken and her cheeks redden. It is perfect—more perfect than she could possibly have imagined. The clouds are aureoles of pink light that seem to cushion her from her old cares.
She goes like that, higher and higher, the clouds swirling around her like wispy dreams. She goes higher and higher...until she realizes that she can't see the ground. At first, this doesn't bother her—it's what she's dreamt of for most of her life, to attain the kind of height that leaves the earth behind completely. But it sends her into a strange sort of panic, to have her eyes fall upon only desolate landscapes—pitted craters and great open fields of yellow-gray that look like epic topographies from some other planet. Strangest of all, there are no people, no houses or cities or jumbles of cars inching along highways that separate chunks of land like concrete rivers. In the great below that is at her feet, there are no signs of life whatsoever.
“But what does this mean? Where will I land?” She begins to panic as she feels herself going higher, higher, higher, until the air in her lungs is bitter and thin and cold and unbearable.
The ugliness of a world without people, without the chaos of daily life, without its endless laundry list of faults, is strangely disquieting to her.
She wonders if her daily prayers since her childhood, to be done with all of it, have caused this. Has she magicked away all the things that seemed to be the source of all harm? And in doing so, has she magicked away all the things that had been the source of all beauty?
She begins to cry. “I'm afraid!” she screams, to no one in particular.
The sky is mottled and dark and inhospitable to her, not beautiful as she had initially imagined it to be.While before she had fancied herself oppressed by the nightmare of existence, her desires have become suddenly simplified: she just wants to be back there, in that world of gravity and anchors, in that world of nightmares from which one could always, at least, wake up.
Her previous chagrin seems almost laughable. She feels as ungrateful and foolhardy as Icarus, doomed to fall with his waxen wings crumpled around him in a sad heap. She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, she feels dizzy, surrounded by a bank of clouds that keeps her from distinguishing between up and down.
She tries to remember a time when her organs didn't flap around in her body, when she could feel herself as a being, safe and sure—at least as far as gravity might be concerned. She closes her eyes again.
“If I imagined myself into this pickle, I can imagine myself out of it,” she says with determination, again to no one in particular.
She imagines herself, a tiny green sapling embedded in the earth. A field of dark, rich soil all around. A languid sense of immobility as she lies there, in complete surrender, blinking at the sunlight and feeling its kiss, so near away and far.
She can feel herself, those roots that run like power lines all the way to the center of the earth, which make it so that she cannot run away—not from the insects which threaten to gobble her up, not from the rain, not from the terror of being so open to everything. But even in the midst of her vulnerability, she feels something—something like a golden ball of warmth that tugs at her, pulls her attention all the way down, through the soil, through miles of hard and molten rock, through the dense strata of things dead and things yet to be born. In the center of the earth, she feels the thing that is her source, that keeps her indisputably safe—even when she doesn't actually feel safe.
When she opens her eyes, she is no longer a balloon adrift in the sky. She is heavy and soft, plump with morning dew and wonder. She looks up, and up is up again. The clouds are where they belong, far from her. She looks down, and down is down again—but oh so alive and teeming with things she had never bothered to notice before. Intricate microbes probing the dark soil, diaphanous insects alighting on twig sand blades of grass, bits of dirt getting swept up in a small eddy that tumbles through and parts the grass into two opposing banks of green.
She listens, and the wind and trees and small animals speak in tongues she'd never heard before, that she'd been too busy blocking up her ears and shutting her eyes tight to decipher. The sounds are cryptic and soft, both other worldly and entirely of this world.
“Come play with us,” the fruit trees beckon.
“Sing with us,” flit the butterflies.
“Dream with us,” wave the willow trees.
“Make love with us,” wink the small insects.
She wonders why she'd never been able to understand these languages before, these gestures filled to the brim with sensual abandon and the taste of raw pleasure.
“Because you never bothered to listen,” playfully chirps the red-crested robin that gazes at her from the top of a peach tree.
The girl shakes her head, dumbstruck at the chorus of gentle and sibilant voices that greet her, voices that she has never before heard or even previously believed to exist. She walks through this strange place, the grass like a bed of silk beneath her feet. She finds herself in an open glade where vines of luscious grapes hang, heavy and low to the ground.
She notices that a woman stands next to the vines without looking at them, almost as if she is incapable of seeing. Her face is drawn with sadness and consternation, and she is clearly lost in her own thoughts.
The girl looks around—at the verdant trees, dancing flowers, whirligigs of insects that flit around like jets of color in the air.
“How could anyone be sad in such a place?” she wonders to herself.
Without thinking, the girl walks up to one of the vines and plucks a clump of grapes. Some of them tumble out of her hands and roll like marbles across the green earth. The grapes are full and ripe, bursting with purple juice that stains her hands and leaves a gleeful streak. She eats one of the grapes, and thinks it might be the best thing she's ever tasted. Sweet and earthy, full of an uncontainable joy that she thinks she faintly recognizes.
“This is too good to keep for myself,” she tells herself. Slowly, she approaches the woman, who regards the girl through a distant haze of anguish, as if she only vaguely sees her.
The girl is startled. “I recognize that face,” she tells herself. “It's like looking into a mirror!”Without thinking, she reaches out and gives the woman the fat clump of grapes.
No words are necessary, for the fog of despair slowly peels away from the woman's eyes to reveal something new, something unforeseen.
Her eyes widen and she looks at the grapes, and she looks at the girl, and her face is full of stupefaction. Tears roll down her eyes, and this confuses the girl, who worries that she did something wrong.
But the woman looks up and speaks through her tears. “Thank you...so much! I never thought anyone would be so generous. I never thought anyone would notice me, much less give me anything. What a gift this is! How can I ever repay you?”
The girl is struck dumb by the woman's speech, and she is even more confused than before. She never thought she had anything to give, much less a thing that so grew in such obvious abundance.
“But...but it's all around you!” She gestures to the clumps of grapes that grow on the vines, to the bubbling brooks of crystal water that snake through the grass, to the myriad ways kindness, gentleness, and hope make themselves known in the fruits of the earth.
The woman looks around as if she has never seen this landscape before, and then gazes back at the girl. Something ineffable passes between them, some flicker of recognition that encapsulates all those lost years of idle fixation, all the defenses that they had woven around themselves as talismans against the pain and suffering of the world, against the demons that persisted on all sides, against the sorrow and promise of never-ending agony.
But there were no demons. Not really.
Only fear, which had kept them from recognizing bounty right where it grew—from the depths of the earth, this strange earth full of its hidden caverns and hell holes and secret portals to other places. But everything in their past—all the fear, the loneliness, the inability to recognize things in their full light—as terrible as it had been, had brought them to this moment.Their imaginations had proven to be both lock and key, two sides of the same coin.
The woman looked at the girl. She took the girl's hand and whispered softly, “And so it is. So it is.”
I was born from love. I emerged from a crack in time, and I have been hiding in plain sight ever since.
I was born a beautiful, rare butterfly in the middle of the Amazon. Few people know of my existence, but sometimes I show up in strange and magical places…or dull, gray, broken places full of world-weary people who have forgotten how to dream. I teach them how to re-member.
My name is Joyful Abundance. I am both ancient and eternally youthful. The elements must spin an impermeable enchantment in order for me to push through the chrysalis of my becoming and to exist for a breath in eternity.
Sometimes, when you meet me, I am still in that dark, fertile place of slumber and creation. Not a claustrophobic enclosure but the firmament itself—the abode of stars, nebulae, opera music. Before I re-enter my physical form, I get to be the ethereal silvery sweetness of just about everything you’ve ever loved, everything that has ever been a source of solace and that has beckoned you homeward to a truth that cannot be uttered but that sings within you always.
I am everywhere all at once, even though my presence can be subtle and not easily deciphered. I am the smile that suddenly breaks upon cracked, dour lips…the thunderclap of spontaneous realization that we are swimming in an ocean of source…the swirling light on the horizon which signals that an idea has plummeted down to the resting place of material reality.
I bring laughter to the hearts of lovers. I bring art into the hands and feet of common people. I dance the waltz through beginnings and endings alike. I clap my hands and say, in all sincerity, “Isn’t this fun?" I siphon the bitterness from fond old memories and remind others that this moment too will pass into recollection…so we may as well re-collect ourselves and return to the present.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos