It’s one in the morning and the rain has become a soft sprinkle. It’s brighter now as the darkest clouds have emptied themselves and moved on. The damp is sweet—standing among the beds it’s not the clean purified air of ozone, but the rich and thick aura of a nursery or greenhouse. My feet stick to the water pooled on the sidewalk, the dry grass begins to drink water from the new mud beneath it. Lightening fingers the eastern sky but there is only silence and stillness and a sense of immeasurable fullness. This is a benediction.
Kneeling down I reach through darkness and hold a balloon flower, the last of the purple from a plant of white. Every year it produces both colors, and a marbling of both on several flowers. Surrounding it are the crumply, shriveled, newspapery blooms that last only a few days in the August heat, blooms that have held bees inside them as the wind rocked them both gently. My arm gathers a spider web. My head tingles with drops of water from leaves above, a few already turning yellow.
This is prayer. This is a gathering and a release. My breath is the soil and sky passing between us on the way to something else—I don’t need to know what that is. This is faith, the same faith I have when I pull soil around a new plant’s roots or stand by the window looking at green storm clouds on the horizon. The same faith I have when I wake and go to sleep.
Benedictine monks, who live a life of large silences and small pleasures, find solace and even fulfillment in the simplest acts. Sweeping a floor, preparing a meal, trimming roses, making a bed, moving boxes—they believe these are all glorious acts of thanks, faith, and prayer that give glory to god. And it is appropriate that the most mundane acts in our lives can become the most exulted and spiritual, can provide such instantaneous insight that the whole of existence drops to the side like molted skin, and for a moment we see how we are meant to. Maybe there is also something to be said for monotony, repetition, a schedule, so we can grow from and through them, learn to see the way every other living thing sees. This is, of course, an act of humbling—and an almost impossible thing for a human to do. We are not easily humbled. We are at the pinnacle of the planet’s hierarchy, but we are also the greatest of caretakers because of our emotional capacity to forgive, forget, and love unequivocally. Perhaps it is easiest to be fully human when we are alone. Perhaps it’s also the easiest when we have nothing to lose.
In this damp night I can see little, hear nothing—the only sense I’m left with is touch. It is primal and dutiful, tender and ferocious. I have such capacity for the most brutal and most beautiful acts that I am a walking contradiction. I negate myself. I cancel myself out. I am free for a moment to be the rain, the flower in the stillness, the soil soaking in the sky. I drop down into this small moment and release any sense of expectation or self-consciousness—the simplest acts are movements in a great faith that there is more, and it’s right before us. This is now. This is purposeful. This is my prayer.