Sacred Spaces

Lined Up

I spent most of yesterday at my desk in the corner of our home’s primary bedroom, reading interviews with people in Uvalde and opinion pieces about the overarching situation and recitations of statistics, memorizing the faces of the children we lost on Tuesday, crying in waves of grief and anger, haunted by my imagination of the slain and by the image of the boy dressed for that morning’s awards ceremony in a pink dress shirt and striped blue tie running for his life away from his elementary school. His pink shirt, his blue tie, all in motion toward safety. The Central Texan sun rose and it shined through breeze-ruffled green leaves outside our second-story windows and the sun slanted long shadows across the room and the sun set and I didn’t draw down the shades until hours after dark, and I kept following these nearby families from afar, one of the deceased teacher’s husband fatally stricken with sorrow, their own four children now fully orphaned.
Just before (finally) going to sleep, I read about the therapy dogs traveling to Uvalde from around the country. I saw photos of solemn elderly volunteer handlers standing erect at a Wednesday vigil in Uvalde, a lineup of neckerchiefed golden retrievers at their feet, with the dogs’ wide-open, round eyes and permanent smiles and the volunteers’ quiet, steady presence ready to offer comfort to survivors. The women and men elders themselves inspired me, in their courage and strength to show up at that moment, in their long hours of dedicated training with the dogs and about trauma, in the witness they made with their own aging bodies of the gift of living for decades.
When I awoke this morning, I knew I needed to connect and get moving, to be present in my own life, to do what good I can, to turn fury into purpose, since I’m still lucky enough to be alive. I was nurtured by meditating and sitting in circle with the online group that has become ballast for me, then later set out on an 8-1/2 mile walk, where I sought grace and comfort from the divine through the conduit of nature and the physicality of full-body motion. At the turnaround point, I sat for a few moments on a large pink granite slab in the shade, drank (even more!) water, listened to the birds calling and responding, watched the limbs of a perfectly symmetrical tree arch over the wild undergrowth—all of us sheltered in peace.
From around a corner in the trail a vigorous elderly man appeared, his dog moseying beside him, enervated by his long coat in the midday heat. The man didn’t notice me at first, but his dog did, and picked up his pace to run toward me. He nuzzled his head against my knees; he pushed his head against my petting hand; he pinned my legs against the rock with his torso. In all his golden retriever glory, he ignored his person’s pleas to continue on their walk, leave the nice lady alone, etc., and he instinctively, effusively comforted me. When the man finally convinced his dog to leave—I could have sat there all afternoon, basking in dog—the good boy leaped in the air and wriggled his whole body, from head to toe, in a motion that looked to me like joy. 
Sometimes, the beach is quilted with pebbles arranged in a row from the tide as an organized artist and the sand is saturated with saltwater to allow footsteps to raise in relief rather than sink in impression. Sometimes, we or our beloveds or anyone’s beloveds are present at the exact moment to witness the worst in the world, and sometimes, we’re present at the exact moment to witness the simplest, most beautiful best.