For those who need the home of their selves this Christmas.
It is a delicate thing to hold both beauty and harm. For those of us who bear marks from those who were meant to shelter and nurture our frail and precious human forms, the eve of today and dawn of tomorrow can make for a treacherous path to walk. At times this indistinguishable line of memory blurs the heart’s inner knowing. It is the uncertainty of surviving abuse. What was awakened in you, what was put to sleep, how you managed to hide your soul to survive, the powerlessness of being subservient to one with the power to find it, what was good, what was evil, and if it is over now why does the thing feel worse than some days years ago?
Your exodus, the ensuing loneliness, the unutterable shame, a seemingly relentless grief keeps chasing you towards something, anything, to remember what exists. I can feel the catch now and I know the fear. How is it, how could you ever have known goodness there, of all places? Oh the lengths we will go to forsake the search for peace. And it’s true, you must name it, you must name the harm and not look away. But, more than likely, you have done so again and again and in so doing pushed yourself farther and farther away. The trouble is, your soul is very, very patient and will never leave you.
Have you read a Wrinkle in Time? Do you know the story of that girl and her faults whose father left and she with her fiery heart was all that could save the world, and him, from It? Sometimes I wonder if it really is a tale of just fiction. Well, in this story, the girl who would very much like to be rid of some parts of her self, gets hurt from the Black Thing. She wakes up on a planet far away needing to heal and is tended by a beast, Aunt Beast, she is called. And this is the part I needed to tell you, on this planet everything is grey and really unremarkable such that the creatures don’t even have any eyes, because that’s not how they see. They “do not know what things look like...[they] know what things are like.” Imagine understanding food and color and even stars in this way—in the middle of a grey world.
Christmas Eve is a good time for a memory like this. There is a song, about another girl. You probably know one arrangement of it, but this one is really the best: Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria . We’d listen to it every year, and only once a year, ‘because too much would spoil the thing’. The evergreen twinkling in the darkness and everything else silent. I’d sit there and each time could never decide which way the light was moving. I always felt Aunt Beast knew, but for seven and a half minutes I wondered, never knowing if the melody was sunrise or set. When you listen, you can try to decide for yourself, but I recommend leaving the matter unsettled. Beauty is like that, often a holy moment within histories of harm. It is not isolated from the rest of the story, nor does it make an excusable anomaly. And I came to know beauty here, in this song on Christmas Eve, between many other days of darkness. Such a thing does not undo what was done, but the loveliness is woven in and not silent. At times one cannot decide if such truths betray the healing you’ve worked so hard embody. Is this really the place?
Now, I listen over and over again, because something like that doesn’t spoil or fade no matter what they try to tell you. These younger stories are waiting for you to see. Your beauty and pleasure were never a product of harm, but always present—hidden, because they belonged to you. These spaces and sacredness exist because you created and inhabited them here first. You too know what things are like, especially in unseeable worlds of grey.
Christmas is a tesseract.* Let your story wrinkle to the place it wishes to be and listen over and over again. Sunsets and rises are there for the Wondering.
Ave and amen
* “a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.” - A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, as performed by Chanticleer on the album Our Heart’s Joy: A Chanticleer Christmas (track 9)