We have been home for a week today. I am surprised by what memories come to mind, and which images stand out from the nearly 3,700 photos we took over thirty days in France and Spain.
I am delighted to discover some of the sights and feelings have not faded and that, in fact, some show up with an insistent tenderness for notice and appreciation. Like this one: feeding the crows at Jardin des Plantes on our last full day in Paris.
I have witnessed in my life, and the life of others, a special grace that sometimes shows up near the completion of a vocation or significant chapter of our lives.
For my mother, Mary Alice, it was during what she had determined, privately and bravely in response to her onset of Alzheimers, to be her last Bridge Club. Mom did not discuss or tell anyone of her decision before or during the party but instead, showed up with a smile on her face and with as much of her usual and gracious self as she always was, to play Bridge with her friends.
After it was over, mom called me and told me she had played her last game of Bridge, and that she had bid and made her first and only grand slam of her life. We both understood the joy and grace of this loving conclusion. This exceptional, tailored-made nod of love from God.
For me, it was during my last walk in the meadow before going home after spending thirty days with the monks at Pecos. For the preceding 29 days, three ravens had met me each and every day at the river. With their flight over head, squawks and crackling greetings, they were a constant for me during a difficult period of what some might have called ‘the dark night of the soul,’ or what others may have deemed as social and/or spiritual dysfunction.
On that last farewell walk in the meadow, one raven met me maybe twenty feet before our usual place where I had built a tribute to my sister in the woods. He sat perched, alone, in the tree overhead. He made a loud racket. He didn’t fly towards me or away as I walked on.
As I came closer to Trudy’s tree in the woods I saw, with horror, that the cross and rocks I had lovingly collected and built over the month were destroyed. The elements scattered. The dirt and grass bore deep gouges as if someone had kicked and dragged their heavy boot across the design of love. It was then that I realized that the three ravens were above, and that whoever had hate enough to do this could still be in the woods.
I instinctively knew there was trouble and turned away. I began repeating with great confidence the prayer taught to me by my first spiritual director, Jim Chambers, “Get thee behind me in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” And I ran.
I ran to the little house where I knew two faithful women lived on the property. I pounded on their door and they let me in. I told them what had happened and they began praying, before a picture of Jesus, the St. Michael prayer of protection. And I knew in that moment that it all was a gift to solidify my understanding of choice and the relationship I had found with God in the meadow.
It was my exceptional, tailored-made nod of supreme love from God.
And now, this is how I remember and see this moment of feeding the crows in Paris. As a gift exceptionally tailored with love.
A couple of notes:
*The Jardin des Plantes de Paris, or Jardin des Plantes, is a park and botanical garden open to the public, located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. It is the seat and the main site of the National Museum of Natural History, which also has other sites in Paris and in the provinces.
**It may help to understand that in our family, Bridge was much more than a card game. It was a way of life. Learning Bridge from my mother and grandmother was carefully orchestrated to prepare me for one day sitting in observation, then eventually playing a few hands at their Bridge Club. It was a rite of passage. Bridge was much much more than a game. It was a playing field for connection amongst women of the Midwest.