I can hear the coming spring in the puddle-making dripping – a small sound, sharp against the sensitive drum inside my ear that barely notices the traffic’s heavy muffle. I can feel it in the shy softness of sunwarmed afternoon air in my snow-bright back yard, can see it in sparkling patches of naked earth under crystal-clear melt.
I can hold these small, faint things as long as I listen for them, open my hands to them, and magnify them as real. Doing so, I know them as sacred icons I harbor quietly, carefully, gingerly shifting them to a primal altar in a sanctuary of promise deep in a cave in my heart hidden from the larger, noisier, more prominent matters of winter: putting more gas in the snowblower; knowing the sound of my winter step as heavy, boot-shod clumping and shuffling; the scrape of rusted blade against ice chunks and concrete.
There are other, more important things that we know will need to fly from us, and we hold these precious jewels sacred, and until the time comes to open our curled and resistant fingers – the giving of a child into another’s arms, the release of a secret into another’s trusted pulse.
And then, having released, we are alone in the instant of emptiness, a sacred space because here the holder and the held are not distinct. It is the place where the rabbit hole may rise up with dark, loamy hands, pulling us into a darkness where we serve a nether lord, or the sliver of sky on which we stand turn upside down. Suddenly, the world is different, a vast gray front rolls in and with it musts and shoulds with foreign names and goals we thought ourselves immune to.
And still, all is sacred, every thermal or downdraft or subterranean waterfall offering growth and possibility. At every turn, we face a challenge: to keep the sacred, we must remember that our steps in this new place may not bring us to the same end as the steps we took before. A journey on Escher’s stairways will change forever how we put one foot in front of the other. Assumptions and projections are expensive, smoky mirrors leading towards dead ends and bewilderment at best. Sometimes, we will crawl on all fours, shedding vanity while we learn anew how to progress. It may be our shredded fingernails that find purchase, our slick-soled shoes having become irrelevant trappings of earlier wanderings before we were ready to know the intimate soil of our deeper selves.
What is it then that is sacred – hidden and holy, shrouded from harsh light and casual notice – what is it that we have brought with us from before that reminds us of the continuum of the Self: who we were, who we are and who we shall be again? What is it for you?
Know that you hold the sacred. Your steps lead you through unsought dimensions far from the small sweet sounds of sleeping, coming spring. You journey ahead and - probably without knowing it – cast light on the path you make as you look behind to see if you can still see home.
"Holding the Sacred" acknowledges a select group of "Women of Achievement" whom the YWCA of Schenectady, New York honored at its annual event in March, 2005. The following version is slightly altered to reflect a broader application. It was published by The Willow Journal in Truckee, California, published by Nancy Winters-Bonnel; and can also be found on 1Spirit Journal .