Writings

lourdes

“lourdes"
or
 “to be at home with being lost”


  1. long flights and missed trains. coffee in a munich airport, returning to where i first traveled. hours later arriving, in the night, in the dark, with no map and no language. walking until things appear.
     
  2. waking in the morning to church bells. and every hour they clang out the time passing.
     
  3. “how will you go about find that thing, the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”
     
  4. piscines. the baths. long waits, and people singing as we stood and sat in line. and then it is your turn. and the women helpers are asking you what language you speak and saying, find your intention. and you are standing in front of the curtain and everyone stops. you wonder if you know anymore how to pray, or what it means. and then you cross over and the white sheet is so cold, and hugged around you, and they hold yours hands while you pray, and plunge, and reach out to the statue of mary. and the water, is so so cold.  and then you leave, dressed again, and it is true, what they had said, about how the water dries instantly. and you cannot stop crying and everyone around you nods, and smiles.
     
  5. stone, rough and smooth to touch.
     
  6. people. so many people. elderly people. sick people. children. hopeful people. lost people. seeking people.  happy people. people from chile, the philippines, scandinavia, italy, california, india, hong kong, england, france, athens, spain, jamaica, canada.
     
  7. and all the people there, who have come, who receive no money, who are present only to help others, the seekers and pilgrims and me.
     
  8. the familiar falling away. and not knowing then, what comes next.
     
  9. candles. and going twice a day to light my own. candles lit for myself. for all the things i don’t have for words. for gratitude. for loved ones. for those i love who are no longer here. for the loss i don’t know how to be without. watching them burn, it feels like honoring something and releasing something. and how it means something, to have the candles burn alongside so many others, all day and all night, like someone keeping watch.
     
  10. blue and white. stillness. compassion. an ache like quiet. and how, when I saw the statue of her, set in the stone, there, her, lady of lourdes. it was unassuming and it was extraordinary. this is how she is. mary. i love her.
     
  11. narrow streets and cappuccinos in the mornings and after dinner. and young nuns in groups, laughing and smoking cigarettes.
     
  12. walking the stations of the cross, up steep hills, with an old man from mexico who now lives in canada, who required assistance and frequent stops. he has bone cancer. only two years to live, they told him, but that was three years ago. and we talk some, and are quiet often. i ask him if he has come for healing. “i come because god says come,” he says to me. and i don’t think it was god who told me to be here, as much as my own hunting heart. but i think we are much the same. that what matters, has less to do with what we seek, or may or may not find, with the why. what matters is, we come.
     
  13. walking streets, lost to a city.
     
  14. room number with my lucky numbers.
     
  15. becoming comfortable with the discomfort of the unknown.
     
  16. the trees of rosaires, at the empty tomb, beads of wood and stone in every color, hanging from bark and branches. and i startled at the sight of it, its strange and unrelenting beauty, all those people, who had flung their prayers out onto the arms of trees. and how it felt much like marie laveau’s grave in new orleans. there it was brightly colored plastic mardi gras beads and candles and lipstick tubes and spells, marking the space where others had come through. but how in both places, it feels like the shrine of beads spoke two things at once. giving some kind of offering, saying “i remember you”. leaving something behind, saying “please remember me”.
     
  17. acceptance.
     
  18. the story of bernadette. she was told she was crazy. and then she was told she had found god. and i don’t know what she saw or heard or found, only that in the story, she believed herself, she trusted her own knowing, no matter what anyone else said. and i would like to do the same.
     
  19. water.
     
  20. candlelight procession. so many people and voices, all singing the same song, in their own language. and then “maria”, a shared word, and candles lifted up to a dark and clear sky.
     
  21. this is what i learned in lourdes, the thing, the learning, i came here for, without knowing it was what i was seeking - if you are willing to be lost, you will find a great many things. but it is more than this. because after a while, you are no longer lost. not because you found your way back (you can never go back), but because in the unknowns, you became someone else. you were changed.