By Rev. Anna Blaedel
One of my very favorite humans, whose life makes the world more sacred, and my life infinitely more wonder-full and meaning-full, just marked the 10 year anniversary of the very brave decision to seek intervention when she did not want to continue living. She did not want the help she sought, but she calls it now “the best choice I’ve ever made.” It’s a choice I am eternally grateful for, as I am her, and her heart-full, tender, courageous being. There have been times when her presence in the world and in my life is where I turn to, and ground in, in order to cultivate the courage to continue living. “Your love is literally the reason and the way I exist,” she said, to and of the broad collective of creatures who know and cherish and, well, love her. Your love–yes, yours–is literally the reason and way someone else exists. And if you know something of the kind of pain, and despair, and grief that tempts you to give up the ghost, remember: someone, somewhere, is eternally grateful for your courageous choice to keep turning toward life, and the love that is, as June Jordan taught, lifeforce itself.
Another of my very favorite humans, whose life makes the world more sacred, and my life infinitely more wonder-full and meaning-full, recently contracted Covid after almost three years of care-full precautions (and all the vaccinations and boosters.) For a couple of very long days, she was too sick to talk, too weak to hold the phone for a call, or to text. I felt so scared and powerless. I prayed, lit candles, kept vigil from afar in the night. I visualized air filling her lungs. I kept my phone on and near me, anxiously awaiting any news. Finally, thankfully, my phone rang. Her voice, full of congestion and coughing, was sweet music. She thanked me for the flowers I had sent, and for a second I worried because I had not sent any flowers, but then she told me how her amaryllis was blooming, and had been keeping her company. The stunning red blooms were from a bulb I had sent her in November, because years ago she started sending me amaryllis bulbs. Amaryllis, I recently learned, means “to sparkle.” She, maybe more than anyone else I know, seeks out and celebrates and breathlessly shares the extra/ordinary sparkling beauty found in the aliveness surrounding her: birdsong, and prairie walks, and the annual return of redwing blackbirds, and the hush of the season’s first snowfall, and the sweet medicine of strong ginger tea and homemade soup, delivered by a friend, and the bright, flaming red of amaryllis blooms, sparkling in the grayscale cold of Iowa winters.
Another dear human, who I have admittedly only encountered a handful of times, but whose wisdom and courage is honest and deep, recently returned for her second semester of college. We met for coffee and a walk by the Iowa River. She bundled bravely for the cold, accommodating my Covid precautions, and I in turn bought her caramel macchiato and introduced her to some of my favorite walking paths in this still-new-to-her-town. For about an hour we walked and talked, and I had the privilege of hearing about courses that are sparking her aliveness, cultivating friendships that honor her and their worth, dreams that she is dreaming for her and our collective future. We watched three bald eagles swoop and dive and circle above us, mesmerized by how this creature, once endangered by extinction, is now encounterable almost daily, mere miles from her dorm, my house. She told me about a story she had just learned, about wise old women in the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and the eagles that fly below them. We parted ways, exchanging words of gratitude and blessing, by the dorm I lived in as a student over twenty years ago. I remembered how the college chaplain who bought me coffee and walked with me by the same river had mentored me in encountering the Sacred by paying attention to the good company of water and trees and prairies and even the occasional human. I walked home with tears of gratitude freezing on my cheeks.
May you, too, beloved and beautiful you, be found by such encounters in the days to come. The lifeforce of love that is our reason and way of existence. The sparkling beauty of life rooting down and budding out and pulling us through. The sacred gift of sharing in it all with other creatures, human and non.
Anna Blaedel (they/them) is co-director at enfleshed, where they tend to the theopoetic intersections of spiritual, academic, and activist engagement. Anna chaplains University of Iowa students, and is a doctoral candidate in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division on Religion. Waking before dawn, lingering in poetry, being an aunt, retreating to the woods or their basement woodshop, tending the garden, sharing silence, and feeding people delicious food are some of Anna’s favorite things.