November 5, 2013

The Birthday Ritual. ~ Michele Bickley

She sits by her window.

The first light of a crisp dawn is starting to break through the night. She is up before anyone else and almost does not recognize the quiet hum in her house. Today is her birthday.

Does she know I am watching her?

She is different than she was years ago. She is also the same. This early morning I see her wipe a few tears and stare out into the darkness. The animals are sleeping across the stream in her backyard. The roosters have yet to crow. The peace almost hangs in the misty air and she breaths it in. Sipping cinnamon coffee and wiping an occasional tear, I can feel the significance of this day. Of everyday.

She has a tradition, a ritual, she likes to do on her birthday. For years now she has been doing it.







More Breathing






Today, she scribbles in her worn leather journal with fury and the gratitude seems to spill out of her. The small wrinkles around her eyes are the imprint of so much joy. Some days she wishes her deep appreciation would fill those cracks back in. Most days she has so many reasons to laugh that she accepts and even embraces those small markers of time passing. Proof of a life lived.

I see her roll out her mat and then stop to pick up a few crumbs of popcorn from the kid’s snack the previous night. She steps on her mat with a look of purpose in her eyes: stretches her arms up and then circles them down. She does this again and again as her body rises slowly and then floats downward. She reaches into the space around her and I can actually see her breath filling out each shape that she moves through. Intently, she creates shape after shape and links them together with a quiet grace. Circles, spirals, twists, lines. A motion of offering. A liquid dance.

A few beads of sweat roll down her cheek. Then, she sits, wraps her legs into lotus and pauses. It is as if she slides into stillness. There is no movement, yet I can see her unfolding and opening into the space around her. One more salty drop slips down her face; a tear merging with sweat. Yet, she does not move. She is still for a while.

So, I too see how still I can become and soon I feel the deep opening of myself into the cool air around me.

We have dropped into that place where pure love is born. Time seems to stop.

From where I watch, time is but an illusion anyway. Eventually, her eyes blink open and she seems brighter. Anew. She brushes a few strands of her butterscotch hair behind an ear, writes a bit more in her journal and then stares out the window again.

A year passed, full of blessings. So much beauty. I’ve watched her a lot this year. She wraps up her joy in the form of a little smile and offers it out to the world. I have felt the warmth she feels from each of those offerings.

And now, another year around the sun. Can she give a bit more? She sweetly sips her now cool coffee. Will she carve out more moments of connection in this next year? She knows that every moment is a moment of connection—if there is awareness. She acknowledges what has passed. All that she has given. All that she has received. A silent promise is made.

Light is now illuminating the trees outside. Leaves radiate: Yellow, Red, Orange Fire. It seems just yesterday they were a vibrant green. Yet another marker of time passing. She likes to stare at these autumn woods. To marvel in the magnificent beauty that can transform at any second.

A chilly wind blows and the trees dance. One rust-speckled leaf releases hold and floats, slowly, toward the earth. A letting go of all that is known and the next chapter has begun.

Maybe the little girl that lives with her will discover this colorful leaf gift? The little girl that sees the magic in everything. Perhaps she will make an artful collage for her mommy’s birthday? Maybe she will use it to decorate her dreams of castles and fairies?

There are little footsteps above. It was as if the little girl felt us thinking of her.

“Momma, I can’t find bunny.”

Let’s go find her.

“Thanks, Mamma. I thought we were going to make you breakfast in bed?”

I woke up early and couldn’t fall back to sleep. When everyone else wakes up, I will get back in bed and you can bring me breakfast. Ah, here’s bunny!

“Ok. Thank you, Mamma. Mamma, watch, I can do flying pretzel.”

She wraps her little legs into lotus and lifts herself off the ground.

“Can you please get me a piece of paper so that I can make you a birthday card?”

I see her give one last solitary glance out of the window. Natasha, the white sheep, is walking down the now autumn painted hill.

From time to time, yes, I will watch her again.

It is part of her ritual, our ritual: to step outside and gaze back. Gaze as if looking through the eyes of God.

To witness, unattached.

When I watch her like that, things are revealed. We reside in the place where pure love is born. We reside within our true nature.

The moment becomes all there is. Yes, things are revealed.

After, when I return to her, we breathe together. Then, for a while we will trust that time does not exist.

We, me, her, the little girl, Natasha, the rust-colored leaf—we are all the same. Always have been. Always will be.

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Assistant Ed: Jamie Khoo/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo via Scott Hemenway on Pixoto}

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