Matsushima As a little girl I came down to the water/ With a little stone in my hand/ It would shimmer and sing/ And we knew everything.
As a little girl I came down . . .
But, in a little while I got steeped in authority/ Heaven only knows what went wrong/ There’s nothing so cruel/ Than to bury that jewel/ When it was mine all along.
And I’m gonna find it . . .
You’re shining, I can see you/ You’re smiling, that’s enough/ And I am holding on to you/ Like a diamond in the rough.
When I was a child, I loved to lie on my back and gaze up at the clouds, feeling the coolness of the earth cradling me. I loved to spin on the lawn until I fell down to the ground, just so I could watch the world wheel around my like a topsy-turvy amusement park ride. I would drop leaves into a stream and follow them like friends until they made it out of the jagged narrows and rushed away like heedless wayfarers into the rapids. And I would stand there on the bank with my toes sinking in the mud, smiling as they went out of view, feeling a vicarious sense of wild freedom.
The world seemed alive to me. And not just flora and fauna. All of it. The sky and rocks. The shimmer of the sun on the asphalt on the street. The sponginess of bread and the smell of books when you cracked the spine. There was a pulse of life lying just beneath the surface of the ordinary. Everything seemed to be breathing. I would pick up a pebble off the driveway and turn it over and over, waiting for it to whisper some profound secret to me. I felt that there was something there just beyond what fingers could touch, what eyes could see. Just beyond what words could express.
All the same I tried to express in words the wonder I experienced.
Recently in sorting through some old papers, I found a couple of poems that I wrote as a child. My mother kept these poems for me, hoping some day I would appreciate them. I’m so glad she had the wisdom to do that, because within these poems, I have found something essential and precious: my core story.
This first poem I wrote when I was eight years old.
Nearly four decades later, I still feel that child alive within me. And it isn’t as if experience hasn’t tried to convince me that life can be impersonal, hard, and unforgiving. I have allowed myself to be led down the path of cynicism, guided by signposts that have pointed me in the direction of disappointment. And I have told myself along that path another story: that the child within me is naive and misguided. That she doesn’t really understand the way the world works and that it is my hardened world view and not her misconceived, bright-eyed optimism that will ultimately keep me safe.
But believe that this child within is naïve and misguided is a grave misunderstanding.
No. She is neither naive nor misguided. She is the strength within me. She is the visionary that has guided me safely down life’s path, showing me that the path of cynicism only leads to the cliffs of despair. She is the everyday mystic that has insisted that despite all disappointment and appearance of absurdity that the light of the Divine shines within Life. Even when it is difficult. Even when it is painful. She is the voice of comfort that speaks through me with compassion and encouragement.
Because she was connected with her Source all along.
The small mystic within speaks to me insistently. She sings with purity and clarity that life is deeply meaningful. And we find that meaning when we engage with a full and open heart in the moment that is. She insists that this is real. This is tangible. This is something we can grasp. Right here. Right now. In this very moment.
Here is the other poem my mother kept for me. This one I wrote at age 11.
I affirm now what I knew so well as a child, even without knowing how I knew: That meaning exists with every step. And there is something to live for in every moment, if only we listen with our hearts and step with reverence.
There is a small mystic alive within each one of us. A mystic that delights in the miracle of the ordinary. Who twirls and twirls just to watch the world spin. Who watches clouds shift their shapes and knows deeply that the world is constantly changing and is pregnant with possibility.
Listen to the mystic within. He is shining, smiling, and offering you his hand. She is speaking her poetry to you even now.