My time here is coming to a close and I can feel the slight pull and excited unease inside of me that comes at the end of each and every of my 3-month semesters in life learning. And before I start using that nervous energy to prepare for the next segment of my journey, I would like to properly wrap this one up. And to do that, I’d like to present you with a story and a gift.
First the story…
Once upon a time, in a small village on a beautiful lake in Guatemala, I went to a little house to have my story told to me by a Mayan shaman. I felt immediate kinship with the woman, perhaps recognizing something of my own spirit in hers. But is was not out of this sisterhood of spirit, or in anything that she told me about my life, that I received the important message she was to teach me. From a wooden shelf sitting next to us, something winked at me. I asked to see that which has shinned its silvery attention at me and she reached over, picked up the item, and dropped it into my hand.
It was the most beautiful stone I had ever held; Placed perfectly and uniquely in a set of silver in a style I had never seen before. And inside the large, oval, aqua stone was a swirl of misty white that could be interpreted by the observer according to her personal character, history and dreams.
“Oh this is incredible! I see the spotted eagle ray! Just as it is seen from the bottom of the sea looking up, with the beams of the sun backlighting and streaming through it! It’s the scene of one of the most beautiful visions I’ve witnessed in this life. And it’s all been captured right here in this stone!”
She took the necklace from me and searched the stone for my vision, but not finding it, re-placed it on the shelf behind her and informed me, “Hum. Yes. I like it too. A man came to my door one day and told me he needed money and asked me to buy a piece of his jewelry to help him out. He told me it’s supposed to bring me closer and keep me in communication with my soul mate. Anyway, are you ready to proceed with the reading?”
Six months later I found myself sitting cross-legged and sipping chai in the back of a silver shop in Varanassi, India. I was taking silversmith classes from one of the most warm and wonderful men I had ever encountered on my travels; A man named Agam.
Agam taught me many things about how to use fire to blow out the shape, size and style of silver. But over our long nightly sessions (some of which we’d never even get to the silver) he’d also graced me with a glimpse of what it means to live life as an Indian through his personal experiences of arranged marriage, Hinduism, family life and work ethic.
It was during one of those nights that Agam delivered to me one of my most important lessons in life; Spreading out his arms to include the dozens of tiered shelves full of his silver work he told me, “…do not think for a minute that I do this work for money. I do nothing for money. I shape silver because I love to shape silver. Every link of every chain in this shop was made by my hand. Yes, they were made with these tools, but they were also crafted with patience, kindness, inspiration and love. Even if you forget everything I’ve taught you, please remember this; That it’s not important what you do or what you make in this life. The only thing that matters is HOW you make it, and that whatever you do, you do it with love.”(And the gift…)
I sculpted many pieces of silver at the side of Agam. But this piece I present to you today, he sculpted at my side. I found the large, oval piece of aged Turquoise in his secret and dusty box of loose gems and stones. From the first moment I saw it, I was immediately reminded of the piece I had seen in the Shaman’s house in Guatemala. So I drew out what I remembered of the design and stone setting (of the piece that I had admired so) and then handed my sketch with the new stone to Agam. A few days later he proudly presented the crafted creation to me. When I put on the necklace, I indeed thought it absolutely lovely. And of course, more than the piece itself, I loved the love that the man who’d created it, had put into it himself.
But I noticed quite quickly over the following weeks an almost subconscious trend; Although I loved to wear the necklace, I was always also torn by the unexplainable urge to take it off. So finally one day I surrendered to this unclaimed will and gave in; “I suppose this necklace does not belong to me. To whom then does it, I wonder? I guess I’ll just wear it until I find out…”
Since that day, many people have approached me with compliments on the pretty piece of stone around my neck. And with each admirer, I tilted my head and asked myself, “Hum. Is it you?” For the important lesson that I DID learn from my interaction with the Shaman was that many things that you own, don’t belong to you — and some things that you don’t own, do.
But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when YOU picked up the piece from my bed table that it smacked me in the head with the clarity of its obvious intention; This necklace belongs to you! And the reason I know it is so is because in the moment that you picked it up and held it, I saw in your eyes the exact same thing that the shaman saw flicker in mine; Some kind of unnamed, but certainly claimed, recognition.
So this is now your necklace. (I supposed it always was. I just got to carry it to you from India.) And how perfectly befitting! For the stone has always reminded me — in shape, color and depth — of the Earth itself, and I so dearly wanted a way to show you my gratitude for all the new worlds you’ve opened up and exposed to me. With such unending patience you have been my ever-compassionate teacher over the last few months in your introduction of me to the subjects of ecology, veganism, cooking, gardening, anarchy, activism and greenism. This last semester in life has been one of my favorites, and is always the case, it’s not the course, but the teacher that makes it.
I know that sometimes our little trees get eaten by grazing cows herded by lazy shepards. And I understand how frustrating it is that the municipal tells us something different every single time we try to figure out what public land we can and can’t plant on. And I sigh with you every time the 80-year old land-owners ask you out on a date after a restoration plan meeting. I also roll my eyes at the fact that the university students are constantly trying to sneak in and plant marijuana seeds in our greenhouse. And I know that no matter how often and early we rise, we can NEVER seem to find the compost man…
But I just want to remind you, that aside from the never ending and exhausting work you put into growing these trees, don’t ever forget the OTHER seeds that you plant in the minds and hearts of the volunteers, and in particular, those that you’ve sown (past tense of “sow”) in me; The seeds of good will, honesty, interest, consciousness, right-living, inspiration and integrity.
Agam will be delighted to learn that his piece has finally found its perfect place – on a person who is in perfect agreement with his work, life and love ethic. Thank you for planting with patience, kindness, inspiration and love.
Namaste (“recognizing the diving in you”),