Who paid the price for me? Is a question I came across as I was reading a book that was recommended to me by a kind and wise woman (Ask Yourself This by Wendy Craig-Purcell). The question immediately stuck like agave sap honey to my heart. Who sacrificed, who suffered, who gave, who LOVED, so I could stand in courage?
A soul-friend started an “Elemental Art Project” in a riverbed located near a trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. I visited the site a few days ago, and I was inspired by many of the rock sculptures that had been erected. There is a delicate balance, strength, and determination that keep the rocks one uplifting the other. I observed the rocks in quiet and stillness and saw in each one, the faces of the women that held me, so I could be.
I noticed some structures had small rocks. Some were so jagged and eroded by life. What struck me was that these small rocks were holding the weight of rocks ten times their size. It was not their physical strength that allowed them to carry each other, but a spiritual power insurmountable by size or stature. Each rock was gently balanced, one before the other, creating an impossibly reliable foundation. Each rock understood the importance of her role as the supporter and the supported.
Other rocks were magically balanced against each other, a perfect union of independence, trust, and reliance. The existence of all depended on the existence of each. Some rocks were connected by an atom-size surface; move them a mili-inch either way, and their interconnectedness would subsist. A delicate spiritual balance of rocks so in tune with each other, they know precisely what the other needs.
Each rock holds her story and her own truth. Each rock has exchanged secrets with the wind, surrendered her fate to the sacred waters, and transformed through the fire of love . Her stories like the sediments of her struggles are transported by wind and water, ending up far from where she started. It is through the process of her erosion that the rock spreads the wisdom of her ancestors.
It is from this wisdom that I understand I am the cumulative result of all the transformative women I have had the honor and fortune to encounter. As I continue on my journey of service, my courage and power will come from knowing that, like the rings inside of a tree trunk, I am not only the sum of all my experiences, but the sum of the experiences of all whom I’ve encountered in my life. I am not only the power within, but the collective power of women like my grandmother who like the rock cairns carried me forth so that I could envision a braver and bolder life for myself.
“Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk . . . that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one” (Sandra Cisneros). I don’t say goodbye to the years that have passed for they will live in me as long as I shall breathe. Every year has brought me the gift of beautiful and wise women who have inspired me and carried me forth. Every year I welcome a new ring in my life, one that will continue to tell my story, continue to mark my journey, and continue to nourish the center of who I am. Every year is a celebration of the years that have come before. It is those years that capture all that I have experienced, as they hold together all that I shall become. As my tree trunk grows strong, and the leaves mark the various stages and cycles in my life, I will continue to learn my place in this magnificent universe and honor and love all the women who have nourished me into the present. Some women I will never know, but their collective spirit will live in me as I continue to live a life of meaning and purpose.
It’s difficult to physically separate from a person you have loved so much. It is transcendental to be connected through love. In my Tita Carmen’s memory, I built a rock cairn, so that I may share her secrets with the wind, learn to surrender my fate to the sacred waters, and continue to be transformed by the fire of love. And one day I hope my daughter will build a cairn for me.
The title of this piece was influenced by the title a few friends of mine, including the artist of the “Elemental Art Project,” created for our writer’s group.