The morning passed with fury. Meetings in Oklahoma City were followed by a drive to my campus 65 miles from point A toward…meetings in Stillwater, point B. Concerns and mid-semester blusters stirred the pot of our academic soup du jour; the odor wafting from this churning fare was neither inviting to the students nor the faculty. “It’s what we’ll eat, because we must,” They collectively agreed through classes commencing and adjourning, research haltingly progressing, activities completed for reasons no one easily articulates.
The day progressed, the halls grew quieter, the chatter in the air sputtered and eventually silenced, punctuated with only an occasional interjection as my building cleared and light switches were pushed into the downward position. The College breathed a sigh of relief as those with beating hearts left their work for another day; its windows watched as the academics filed into the parking lot, engaged their various modes of transportation and headed toward the next segment of Life.
My one-hour drive home was not yet halfway complete when I realized the pain coming from my hands was due to my death grip on the steering wheel. My white knuckles shined like eight surrender flags to my bloodshot eyes, sending a signal that had taken twenty-four miles to reach my brain. The channels between my hands and brain were too clogged with traffic jams of Outlook calendars, publications, advisees and search committees to become aware of the beacons being sent over and over: “Stop. Stop. Please. Stop. Stop. Please. I mean it. I said Please.”
My myopic, rigid and focused view of the road ahead of me slowly dilated until it reached the width of my windshield. Once expanded, my view shifted toward more of what lie ahead of me than simply the speeding asphalt and yellow or white lines. There was, in front of me, a fragment remaining of the Day. A remnant of what I almost missed was there for the taking because my subconscious took over my knuckles and screamed, “Hurt her. She’s not hearing my gentle voice. Shake her. Please. I mean it.”
Beyond the windshield, through the shatterproof glass, past the pale of the Way Home lie a Holy Place. I pulled my car over, compelled to find it. The shoulder wasn’t far enough from the Way Home. I pulled off the road until all four wheels rested on the dead grass and damp earth, pushed the gearshift toward Park, breathed out and turned off the ignition. I heard…nothing. I felt…tension. I needed…space.
I exited my car, white knuckles helping the death grip of my keys remain secure. I headed toward a hill adjacent to a pastureland which was adjacent to my Space. Black high heeled boots and soft earth wrestled during my ascent but I didn’t know it. My brain was focused on the need for space. The need for…this:
Cresting the hill, my body sunk into the ground, my knees taking a crossed position under my rayon plum suit. The course dead grass stabbed through the rayon and my skin fought back. “Begone, distractions! Forget you, mud, cold, grass, earth. You are not discouraging me so lay your weapons down. I refuse to fight because you don’t deserve the attention. I need space and you will not steal that, not if you were a thousand thieves.”
My gaze focused on the view, the Space, the Sky and all the layers between Heaven and Earth. And I began to breathe. Five minutes later the traffic noises faded into no-longer-existing land. They were gone. My car was gone. The workday was gone. And all that remained was my head fused with the midnight blue, my eyes taking in the light blue and orange, my chin and my neck pressed against the energy of the horizon, my heart beating against the tree branches that broke up the line, and my center pressed against the weight of the lower, darkened earth…grounded, rooted, firmly planted into its Mass.
I found my Space and I stayed frozen, congealed with Nature, as the light from the West began to fade away.
“Thank you. Thank you. Peace. Thank you.” My knuckles were speaking clearly to my brain as they and my fingers let go of my keys and began to stroke the dead grass like the fur of a pet. “Nice grass…good grass…thank you, grass.”
I unzipped the calf-length side of each boot and breathed more Life in the twilight. Offering a full-bodied, whole-hearted, completely focused Prayer of gratefulness to my God, I stood up and prepared to return to the car. But the Sky stuck to my forehead, my neck, my heart, my gut and my Being…and I walked while dragging it back like ions magnetized to a scientific experiment. As I entered the car, I pulled the Sky completely inside the cab with me, like an oversized petticoat underneath a prom dress. My brain adjusted, pushed and shoved every bit of the Sky into nooks and crannies of the interior to ensure it was all safe and sound before I closed the door.
Then my relaxed fingers inserted the keys to the ignition, my wrist turned, and my thankful brain focused on going Home.