A Story of Awakening through Love, Light, and Letting Go
By Rebecca Stearns
“Where is your sister?” Joanne’s eyes flashed with the quick anger that tries to control and squelch fear. “Go look for her, Sasha. She should have been home from school over an hour ago.”
Sasha grabbed his coat from the hook by the door, pulled on his hat, and gave his mom a hug. “Don’t worry, mum. I’ll find her,” he said. “I bet she’s playing in the school yard.”
The October afternoon was growing cold, and Sasha walked at a brisk pace to keep from getting chilled. At 9-years-old he knew every leaf-strewn street, curve and hill of his small, idyllic neighborhood. Mont St-Hilaire, Quebec was a fine place for a young, adventurous boy to grow up. He spent many of his weekends exploring the woods, the nearby creek, and the railroad tracks that ran through them. Finding Wendy shouldn’t take long, he reasoned.
Sasha crossed the bridge that led to the school, searched the playground, and returned without seeing any signs of his sister. He had been walking for a good hour through the neighborhood streets when he returned to one of his favorite, overgrown paths; a little-known passage that led through the orchard, past the towering maple trees, and to the mouth of the Richelieu River. He rubbed his hands together for warmth as he made his way along the trail, stepping easily over roots, branches, and occasionally moss-covered logs. Here and there he could see the water glistening in the distance, sometimes seeming to blend with the misty clouds. It wasn’t long before the trail opened and he found himself stepping onto the bank of the slow-moving river. As his vision took in the bright sky and the expanse of shimmering water, he heard a soft splash to his right. Then, quite distinctly, he heard someone calling his name.
“Sasha! Sasha! I knew you’d find me!” It was the voice of his sister Wendy. He turned and saw her waving to him from where she appeared to be treading water at the far side of the river.
“Wendy!” He yelled, astonished at the sight, relieved to have found his missing sister at last. “What the heck are you doing here? Are you swimming?”
“Waiting for you to find me. What do you think?” she hollered back.
Wendy’s auburn hair was wet and glistening. “Get out of the river. You’ll freeze to death!” Sasha shouted louder, confused as to how his seven-year-old sister could possibly tread water in the icy river so calmly.
“I’m sorry, Sasha. I have to go. Promise to tell mom I’m okay.”
Even from a distance Sasha could tell she was smiling. “Wendy, come back!” He did not understand what was happening. Why was she swimming away?
“I love you, Sasha!” And she was gone.
Isabelle closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Joshua had taken the boys for a walk, leaving her alone with some precious time to enjoy the quiet house, and she intended to take advantage of it. Wrapped in a blanket on the living-room sofa, she breathed the stillness into her being, trying to let go of nagging worries, enjoying how the world seemed to drop away into darkness. But in a few short moments her whirling mind was back, calculating whether or not she had time for a run, wondering which way the boys had headed on their walk and whether or not she would be back soon enough to eat the dinner she had prepared ahead of time with the family.
Isabelle opened her eyes and walked into the small, downstairs bathroom, unpleasantly aware of thoughts lurking in the shadows of her mind; concerns about the future of her darling boys, now almost two and four years old, thoughts rooted in fear of the world and in fear of the great unknown.
Four years ago, Isabelle had lived a relatively isolated and carefree, if naïve, life. Those who knew her would agree that becoming a mom had led to a transformation. Ben had been cradled lovingly in her womb, and was just two months from making his grand entrance into the world when the Trade Center had imploded. She recalled watching in disbelief as the two-dimensional buildings on the television screen had quietly collapsed and crumbled, wondering how she would protect her vulnerable child from the terrors that were creeping like dark, dangerous demons into her reality.
In subsequent years Isabelle had become uncharacteristically preoccupied with worldly affairs: the rapidly declining health of the environment, corporate greed, needless wars, and how her boys would be affected by the shortsighted decisions of those wielding power. As a mother struggling to protect her children, she could easily identify with parents around the world – Iraq, Afghanistan, anywhere – who were desperately trying to save their own children but could not. Night after night the evening news portrayed a world filled with nightmares. Images of broken, bloodied children in the arms of horrified parents flashed in her mind. Everyone, she knew, was somebody’s child, angelic, vulnerable and precious.
Having her boys had changed everything. In giving birth to her children Rebekah had also birthed an intense, aching love, a sensitivity that had spontaneously exploded the walls of what she only realized in retrospect had been her fortress. The great upheaval had exposed her heart to the inevitable sorrows of life. A relentless sadness had settled over her. A number of times throughout each day she wanted to gather the world in her arms and cry. And now, once again, she found herself near tears.
There has to be another way, Isabelle thought as she gazed into the dimly lit medicine cabinet mirror. There has to be something more to life, something besides worrying about the beautiful ones we adore.
Isabelle closed her eyes, unable to stop her mind from its frantic spinning, overwhelmed by the idea that she had been selfish and ignorant in bringing her boys, so beautiful and so innocent, into this world. None of it made any sense. There had to be something else.
In an attempt to relax she breathed deeply, softened her gaze, and looked with interest at the image she saw in the mirror. She watched the light and shadow play over her face from an open, almost meditative perspective. Overcome with a simple, compelling curiosity, she felt herself let go, and as she looked into the mirror she saw unfamiliar features, faces she didn’t recognize shifting within her own. Then, in an instant, she saw only her eyes, intoxicating and powerful. Waves of light emanated from them, rippling out in every direction. Brilliant energy drew her in and for a number of what seemed like infinite seconds she couldn’t look away.
Jolted and shaky, and in desperate need of a moment to get a hold of herself, Isabelle changed her clothes and slipped outside for a run. As she jogged alongside the evening traffic and down the hill to the lake she could feel herself relaxing. Something had profoundly shifted inside, and as she gave up trying to understand it intellectually an unusual sense of calm and serenity enveloped her.
Now and then a seagull sailed effortlessly through the sky, and the breeze pushed through the trees, shushing her thoughts. It was only around 7pm, but on this October evening it was already getting dark. Normally she would have felt vulnerable running alone in the shadowy dusk, but tonight Isabelle felt strong and powerful instead.
Even the familiar terrain was different. As she jogged along it sparkled with color and seemed to float past her like a calm, meandering river. Isabelle knew it was her perspective rather than the outside world that had shifted; the bill of her hat was moving up and down, and she watched it as if she were peering out from her body through the lens of a camera. As one foot and then the other landed softly on the gravel path, the entire landscape joggled. The experience was subtle, but very strange. She was looking out from her body, as always, but somehow Isabelle was certain she was no longer connected to it.
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