What is Sacred?

For a moment I was startled. Perhaps it was the bold use of a "religious" word, or simply the direct nature of the question. As a River Writer, I'm accustomed to prompt lines from poetry, gentler invitations. "You have 15 minutes." said the teacher as he set a timer. Blinking into the clear Costa Rican sunlight, I picked up the pen; then it started to move and didn't stop. There, in a room full of strangers, I leaned in to the question "What is sacred to you?" I've written to the same prompt a few times since. Today's list included shreds of cheese caught in my husband's beard and the navy blue "workout pants" with housepaint on them which I bought in the nineties and wore to gym just this morning. I'm still surprised by these items. I didn't see those pants as sacred when I put them on. 

I'm curious. What is sacred to you? Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes today and find out. Don't stop writing. Allow for surprises. Trust your words as they come. If you're feeling generous, please share your list in the comments below. 

What Is Sacred?

Bison are sacred. Being near them is sacred, standing on the same land with them even more sacred still.

White pelicans with black-fringed wings.

Pomegranates and the acts of cracking and seeding them, separating the seeds from the pith. Eating them.

Grinding wheat, letting dough rise, kneading loaves, letting them rise again, baking and breaking bread. These are sacred acts.

Sharing a writing table.

Listening to true stories, creating space for them.

The act of writing, the act of listening.

Howler Monkeys and their babies in the trees. Their collective morning roar.

The color of the Blue Morpho butterfly.

The people making the food behind the kitchen wall, their hands, the work of their hands, the food itself.

Farming. Foraging. Ellery’s work, Karen’s work. Ellery & Karen.

The first baby turtle emerging from the sand nest, the way he worked for four hours to tunnel through the wet sand. The three of every one hundred turtles who live to see their first year. The 97 that die. The people standing and walking so carefully, mostly silent and watching. The way we kept the feral dogs at bay. The gulls who cried because they were denied their coveted breakfast.

Each thoughtful step.

The Bavarian guides who love all the birds and told us their names, and the Osprey which was the last bird we saw.

Gathering for right action. Speaking the truth, even when it’s difficult, especially when it’s difficult.

All love is sacred, as is unfulfilled yearning. Union is sacred.

All groves, all water, every rock.

The red hibiscus flowers among the deep green foliage.

The intimidating spider and her web.

Pottery made by hand, the tired woman selling it.

The sounds of water, laughter, and wind in the palms.

My daughter’s name, not the one I gave her, but the one she claimed for herself.

Silence, especially shared silence.

Places without cars.

Every place on the gender spectrum.

Every place on the earth where someone sleeps, walks, eats, or cries.

The places where no one does.

Every place on earth.

Tears.

Grief.

Praise.

The ability to praise.

Longing, which equals capacity.

This moment with the keyboard slipping out from under my sweaty wrists, my fingers still typing because I could go on and on, the fact that this moment won’t last. The fact that someday there will be a one last moment for me in this body with this heart and this mind.

The mystery of what may be next.

The idea that even if there isn’t anything else, this is inarguably enough.

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