“You have been through an initiation, a burning down,” she tells me again from her perch in the corner of the sacred space we are gathered in. My body feels full, for lack of a better word. Plump. Not in an uncomfortable way, but in the way I imagine a water balloon that has been given just the right amount of water must feel. And I nod. Because this is quite possibly the perfect word for this last year.
* * *
I am writing you from a conference in Tucson, Arizona. From the very same gathering area in the very same resort where I listened to that ominous message last year.
“Kathryn, we need you to give us a call back. We need to discuss your most recent films with you.”
From where I sit now I can see where I was sitting then when the phone rang, bringing in that message. I can see the parking lot where I returned the call. The steps where I sat while the news came funneling in.
Fluid in the area near my liver and kidneys.
Rush CT Scan.
From where I am sitting now, I can see the table where I tried to collect myself before speaking on a panel. I can see the doors I escaped through with my law partner/stand-in big brother to tell him what they had just told me, crying under the desert sun.
From where I sit, I can see the place I stood when I took down the details of the CT Scan they had ordered so quickly. Where I sat when I texted the news to the person I was so certain would accompany me down this road.
From where I sit right now, I can watch the ghosts of my previous life experiencing that day. I can remember that time before all the physical pain, all the heartbreak, all the depression, all the fear.
The memories are almost too vivid.
* * *
Yesterday I decided to take a short cut around the resort. I was freezing in our session and thought there was a faster way to get to my sweater than the route I was accustomed to taking. (I had somehow thought that being in the desert would suddenly make my body compliant with temperature changes. I was wrong.)
So I took a left where I otherwise would have continued straight and I ended up lost in the maze of this place. I was finally plopped out in the middle of the nature trail. Or, more specifically, I found myself in the butterfly garden.
The butterfly garden.
It was not lost of me that I had been placed there by no will of my own. In fact, I was placed there very much against my will – which wanted nothing more than a quick trip to my room and back before the next session started.
Butterflies are symbolic of transformation, and I do believe that landing me there on the last day of this year of initiation was nothing less than God welcoming me to the next stage of my journey.
Its time to let that cocoon fall away.
* * *
That morning one year ago, I looked out at the same mountains I saw this morning from the vantage point of my balcony. The same mountains that I gazed upon last year as I fell to my knees in a last-minute prayer that God heal my abdomen.
I had expected the type of divine healing we hear about from time to time. That I would stand up and the pain and the bloating would be gone. Vanished. My life could continue as it had been going. Nothing to see here.
As we all know, this is not what happened.
So today, I gathered with some of the women who join me here in these mountains each year. And looking out on that same landscape, I prayed once again. It was a prayer of gratitude for the gift of hope, for the unexpected journeys, and for the people who walk those roads alongside us. It was a prayer of thanksgiving for always being given what we need. Even what it is not what we think we need. And certainly not what we want.
Today, one year later, I raised up a prayer of thanks for this beautiful, fiery initiation.