Space. Quiet. Reverent. Purple and blue and black and flecks of — is that orange? white? or a trick of the eye? Rivers of colorless color, drips of paint that morph from waterfall to face to a flower stem to an open palm to God herself, murky, in the monolith.
I woke this morning very depressed, having stayed up too late last night after my show, scrolling the web, reading The New York Times, Twitter, anything to make sense of what felt like a country where one side just took their ball and stabbed the middle finger at the other. It is like being in a relationship with someone who plays games, you’re always feeling like you’re begging for clarity, there’s a little bit of hope, and then complete abandonment. I am tired after a year of nothing but hate and aggression that ignore just old fashioned fair play. It’s like a baseball game where the teams don’t line up at the end to shake hands. Instead they insult and shame each other. Abandonment and shame. That’s where we are at as a country.
And so, this morning, I drove to Houston to The Rothko Chapel. A few years ago I was on tour with Tim Easton and Megan Palmer and Tim took us here and I sat in front of one of the paintings and wept openly in silent prayer. I have been back every time I come through Houston. I have brought my friends Doug and Telisha Williams, Rod Picott, Emily Robinson, Matt Haeck, Megan many times. I bring people here like Tim Easton brought me. Every time I come, I weep. This morning, for the first time, I took a cushioned pillow on the floor, rather than sit on a bench. I came to find grace. I came to find a way through the noise. I chose the tall painting at the back, one I had not developed a prior relationship with on other visits. It was one I was NOT drawn to. I just chose it as the underdog. The other ones I have stared through and know like old friends. This one felt like a B list pick. So today I chose her. And sat in front of her, restless after a few moments — “this one isn’t working for me, I knew it, I should move” — and yet, I stayed with her. Sat cross legged. Breathed through my mouth. Kept my eyes softly open and my gaze on the purple until my vision blurred into the painting and the painting became the sea and the wind and a hand and the virgin mother mary and jesus and my dog long gone and my grandmother’s rose-scented skin and a river and the tears started to pour out of my eyes over my cheek and I closed my eyes and repeated to myself “I am not of this body; I am not even of this mind” over and over until the words blurred like the painting and I was just still. For a little less than an hour. When I finally opened my eyes, what I saw in the painting was a tall leveled tower, like Babel, leaning, windows open and empty and I thought, ha! that’s where we are at, in the Tower of Babel, all of us shouting different languages so that nobody is talking TO anyone, just throwing noise into the air stuffed with anger and confusion and riotous discontent. And I looked at that tower and I felt sorry for it and then I just saw it as sick and full of sick people and I saw myself as a sick person inside it and then I loved it and a calming peace came over my heart and I knew it was time to get outside in the sun. I thanked whatever God-Of-The-Day had shown up, as mine morphs and shape-shifts, and stood up. My foot was numb so I had to twirl the tingle out in order to put weight on it. Reflexively, my hand went over the top of my now-hard belly, remembering that I have a son growing inside me, and I gave a little prayer for him, too, that he is able to be born into a world not so tangled by words and that I learn not add to the noise so that he can know grace.
One thought on “Houston, December 2”
Love this. Thank you Amy. I went to a memorial this week for a friend. These words offered consolation for our grief, and helped me stare into the purple void until I could feel love and peace above the sorrow.
Contemplation on No-Coming, No-Going, by Thich Nhat Hanh
This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide- and seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.