2023 the year we learn to listen to life
Week 6--in which Mother quakes and we don't know what to do
Friends, soul writers, mystics, witches, and lovers of prayer,
This week has been raw for us. All of us: humans, animals, plants, rocks… Because our Mother quaked. She shook Herself.
We can look at this with scientific eyes. And find some facts. And then, we can look with our more mysterious mystical eyes and perhaps find something deeper.
Geography shows us that Turkey and Syria and the entire Arabian Peninsula are part of a tectonic plate. And tectonic plates move. Earth is never static. Never still. Never finished growing into her fullness.
Science tells us that a part of this tectonic plate moved a bit North into the Eurasian Plate on Monday and squeezed the nation of Turkey and portions of Syria.
The news tells us that there was an earthquake and a major aftershock. And most of us tend to stop there. But the U.S. Geological Survey has recorded more than a hundred aftershocks in the area and expects more.
The scientific explanation is that two pieces of the mantle of Mother Earth slid horizontally past each other. If you are an American, particularly one living in California, you’ve heard this language before. It is the reality of what happened to San Francisco in 1906 and could happen again, because Northern California sits on the San Andreas fault.
Earthquakes in Turkey aren’t rare.
History tells us this area has experienced earthquakes for millennia. There was even one in 1138 that flattened the entire Syrian city of Aleppo. More recently there was one that struck Izmit in 1999 that killed thousands.
The thing about earthquakes that somehow makes them more terrifying than other natural disasters is that you can’t predict when they’ll happen.
Science has been searching for clues. Clues in animal behavior. Clues in the weather. Clues in underground seismology. But thus far, we don’t know where or when. Suddenly the earth simply shakes. In Turkey it shook for 75 seconds, a very long time when your home is swaying under your feet and the walls collapsing around you.
For those who have never experienced a quake, you can’t really imagine what it feels like.
But I have experienced both major and minor tremors.
When I lived in Los Angeles in 1971, I woke early one morning because the water bed (hey, it was the 70s) was rocking. I got up, looked out the window and the water in the swimming pool was no longer in the pool! It was hovering several feet above the pool in a big wave and as I watched the water came down to the pool and out again on the other side. As a Midwesterner used to very solid ground, I was oblivious to what was happening. It was only later that I heard the word Earthquake.
I moved north to Oakland in 1976. At first my boyfriend (husband-to-be) and I lived on a sailboat where you don’t feel any quakes. The boat is constantly moving. But when we moved into a tiny wooden house, I began to feel them. All the time. Being small and wooden and close to the ground, our little house (411 square feet) simply swayed a bit with the ground. House and dirt had a wee dance going.
We left California in 1979 for CNN. And that, I thought, was the end of my life with earthquakes.
But in 1989, living in Florida, my husband and I, and my mother-in-law who flew in from Northern California to meet her new grandson, sat down to watch the opening game of the world series on television.
Ordinarily we’re not sports fans, but this was “the battle of the bay” with San Francisco and Oakland so, we had to watch.
We were just settled on the couch when the screen when black. My husband, who had been the director of field operations for CNN, knew instantly that the only possible explanation was an earthquake. He jumped up, called his sister in California, and actually spoke to her while the quake was rocking her home.
To write this little letter for you, I googled California earthquakes. And am stunned by how common they are. There’s one almost every year. Some years there are several.
But knowing the cause doesn’t change the shock. The pain. The horror. Over twenty thousand people are dead in Turkey and Syria as of today. It’s a shock to the system. To the eyes. To the heart. To the body.
I find myself ruminating on this word QUAKE.
The earth quakes and shakes and moves. She is alive. And we who are blessed to walk on her ground, and breathe her air, and drink her waters are alive in her. Not on her. In her She is us. And we are her. One enormous blue and green body.
And when she quakes, we quake. When she shakes, we are shaken. We cry. We drop to our knees. And we pray. Pray for the people who are suffering. Pray for the people rushing to help.
As I ponder this word, quake, I find myself gently touching the sore parts of my body that still hold the memory of personal quakes. Not earthquakes. Emotional quakes.
- The phone call in the night.
- The diagnosis.
- The divorce.
- The death.
- The betrayal.
- The accusation.
- The rejection.
Earthquakes that quaked my body, my heart, my earth.
I don’t know what to do about the sorrow in Turkey. I can donate to support the rescuers. Doctors Without Borders is my go-to. And I can reach out and hold someone who is experiencing their own quake right now.
And I can pray.
Perhaps that’s why this prayer was the very first one that came through my hands the morning I heard prayer artist.
Maybe this is the only prayer we really need. It's certainly a comfort to me right now. And so I give it to you.
Sometimes I Pray
by Janet Conner
Sometimes I pray WITH you
side-by-side, body-to-body, heat-to-heat
our prayers mingling like smoke
rising into the sky, going who knows where
Sometimes I pray FOR you
holding you up to the Queen of Love
asking you be cleansed, purified,
and transmuted into the pathway of love
Sometimes I pray BESIDE you
not knowing who you are
or what you’re praying
or where or when or even how
but praying beside you anyway—
two hearts that might never meet
but recognize one another somehow
Sometimes I pray AROUND you
circling your pain
circling your confusion
circling your anger and your sobs
I chant mysterious songs
and sway to secret beats
trusting the words and rhythms
to wrap you in their sacred healing cloth
I hope the colors penetrate your skin
I hope the sounds massage your aching heart
Maybe nothing happens
Maybe everything happens
I don’t know, but
I pray around you anyway
Sometimes I pray IN you
I’m not sure how this happens
When did I enter your heart?
When did you enter mine?
But sometimes I am in you and you are in me and together we create a prayer neither of us knew before—a prayer we might never be able to replicate again
It’s the moment, this moment
and in this moment we are one spirit, you and I—
one heart, one being, remembering who we really are
Sometimes my prayers are potent
Sometimes my prayers are dust
Sometimes my prayers are fearless
Sometimes just whimpers in the night
Sometimes they dissolve into weeping
Sometimes they morph into song
Sometimes they send me dancing
Sometimes they cut me cold
Sometimes I know I’m praying
Often I do not
Is this a prayer?
Or is this a life?
Or are they the same thing?
to feeling the quake and praying anyway,
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