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“No, Liz, I’ve never heard a patient say that. Usually, they’re unconscious or subdued by drugs when that happens,” said the hospice nurse as she pulled a chair closer to mine in the study, filled with sunlight. I’d never shared this with anyone, and she seemed receptive, given her years of experience. Her round eyes reminded me of a toddler’s wonder tracking a Monarch butterfly by the seacoast.

“Indeed, I’m happy for you,” she said, still moved by my experience as she unzipped her bag and pulled from it what she would need. “Sounds like it wasn’t the first time. Tell me more.”

I nodded. “Last year I began noticing it at intervals—usually afternoons, during nap times. The whir of the concentrator for my oxygen gentled my eyes as they shut down.

“On the threshold of sleep, though, my body became something else: my arms immobile at my side, my legs slightly bent at my knees, my mind emptied of chatter. No sense data. No colors. Just bliss. Only rhythmic breathing in my chest evidenced life. As these episodes increased, the less time I had to wait for what I began calling, the sinking.”

“That’s fascinating,” she said after jotting information in her computer. “I’m always glad when asked to come by. I learn so much—Did anything else happen yesterday?”

“Yes, the sinking lasted over three hours, longer than ever before, and I found myself practicing going to heaven—I never did that before, but I’m still here.”

Still masked, I felt her smile as she blew me a hug and left.

For decades, walks on wooded trails pleasured me with intense beauty, but simultaneously left me aching to articulate the experience. I did not have exact words to name trees, wild grasses, birds, flowers—indeed the seasonal world around me, Creator God’s continuous gift.  

Then, a friend alerted me to Braiding Sweetgrass—Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants (2013), written by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a SUNY professor of botany, a researcher, an author, an ecologist, and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This collection of essays is not book to finish but to savor as antidote for the global ills that sap our humanness.

Critical to this process is Kimmerer’s ability to intuit stories of healing in the natural world, as did her ancestors, who left rich legacies to supplant the wash-out technologies that imperil our world even further.

The sacredness of the land is also central. With its accompanying mindset of gift, gratitude, and generosity, braided within stories of her tribe, her students, and her ongoing ecological research, the author enlivens fresh hope in her readers who continue buying her book. Indeed, all of life contains modalities for this restoration and embellishment, if sought after.

I wonder what would have happened if the Native Americans had colonized the European settlers to the New World, rather than what occurred.

Braiding Sweetgrass empowered me with its simplicity and wisdom of language; its spiritual nourishment. I’m glad whenever I peruse its pages.

After a full night’s sleep, I awoke at 7:30 A.M. with this dream:

Inside a darkened theater filled to capacity, I sit alone and watch a musical. From the orchestra pit, musicians play catchy tunes to accompany the songs and dance steps of children, dressed in red-and-white striped bodysuits. They execute clever routines upon a wide set of stairs on center stage.

This dream reveals lively energy in my psyche. The darkened theater suggests a venue of playfulness that diminishes harsh lines of reality and activates imaginations. Identification with the performers opens cramped worlds, often, strangers to the hilarity of play, as is my case.

Again, I am alone, my former practice of attending the theater and other artistic events. Having a companion watered down the impact of the experience for which my psyche yearned. So desperate I was for nurturing, for new learning, for enlargement of my world. Following such experiences, my musings were rich, especially if they were derived from musicals, on stage or films; they seeded my loneliness with elan for a short while.

In the orchestra pit, an unseen director, Precious God in disguise, coordinates the musicians, also unseen, and the dancers: their red-and-white striped bodysuits blur pinkish as they traipse up and down the stairs, just for the fun of it. At least, it looks that way.

This dream feels like a teaser: its invitation to explore my own playfulness, to open out my laughter, long buried beneath fears of physical diminishment. Such is critical for the full development of my humanness, a Godly dimension.

I do have a new helper, though.

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