A Golden Thread of Light On Beltane
May 1, 2020
I wrote the poem “As I. She is” during my deployment in Africa in 2016. I remember that evening clearly. The full moon sat heavy in the sky. The warm desert air muddied the tears and stained my face as I sat in trance from a small wall under an olive tree. How I looked to Her for answers. Hours prior, thousands of miles away, back home, my family, particularly, my grandmother—my protector, guardian and best friend—was given an update on her cancer status. Just like that, the doctors gave her an expiration date. How quickly tears of anger turned to tears of despair as I scribbled down these words:
“She sits high on a midnight blanket as I sit in the dark under a rustling olive tree.
She controls the oceans like the waves of my emotions as I look to Her for guidance and strength
I stand in Her light wondering if these feelings are waxing or waning as I search the smoke before my darkened eyes, for the thoughts I just let go
What She brings on my soul tomorrow, I may not ever know”
When I called back the next day, (as it was my tradition since I was six years old to call and tuck my grandmother in for bed every night) I told her to look for the full moon tonight—it’s something. She informed me, “I’m looking at it now.”
For the first time during my deployment, I didn’t feel so far away.
I share this story, because it’s almost two years to the day of my grandmother’s passing, and my heart has found itself amidst a new crisis—Covid-19. Again, I find myself looking to the night’s sky for that spring full moon for answers. I wonder how many people around the world, all so very different from me, are looking at the same moon for the very same answers.
This spring, it feels like Covid-19 has put the world in a deep freeze. Humanity weighs heavy like the daffodil blanketed with a late spring snow. My heart, at first, much like that desert night ached selfishly, but it now cries for humanity. From friends hidden well within the exoskeleton of New York City to my family and friends in rural America, in article after article, Tweet after Tweet, I hear and read the same message—joining in voice with the spring flower, “We’re here, too! Remember us.” We’re all trying to emerge and blossom together.
The Covid-19 pandemic challenges us to learn to thrive in an environment we’ve always had access to but too rarely heavily relied on; and that is the light and energy found within. We are having to dig deep in this solitude in order to grow as well as finding new ways to be in community with others through distance. Perhaps it’s the isolation, but often lately, I find myself taken back to my days in the military. However, it is in this cold darkness of spring, my eyes and heart are finally beginning to adjust.
The best way I can describe is like looking at the night’s sky. The further you get from the civilization the brighter and more vivid the stars and moon become. It wasn’t until reading, “Centering Radical Mercy this Ramadan,” by Jenan Mohajir, an inspiring colleague of mine, that I truly realized the importance of the moon and solitude. Not just for those celebrating Ramadan, but those who celebrate Passover, Easter and now my holiday, Beltane (Gaelic May Day), May 1, which in rough translation means, “fire.” Beltane is one of four seasonal festivals, featuring the ritual of lighting a fire to help protect participants and the needs of their communities from harm as the world crept out of darkness of winter and coldness of spring into summer.
In Mohajir’s article, she speaks eloquently of the role of the moon in her faith, which also plays a large role in mine. My family, who is predominately Catholic, celebrate the Christian holiday, Easter, also a lunar holiday. My close friends who celebrate Passover in April also share a time of year that too follows a lunar calendar. When we use this lens—when faith, political affiliations, state and country lines are stripped away, we are nothing more than children of the earth—independent beings of hope.
We are a mother sharing in her son’s first suhoor, the pre-dawn meal. We are a grandson longing to be with his grandmother. We are the healthcare heroes and essential workers hoping to bring peace and wellness to a stranger’s day. We are inherently different and yet the same. “As I, She is.” In my faith, we’d say, “As above, so below.” My Christian brothers both visit Matthew 6:10 “On earth as it is in heaven” and my Muslim friends visit Quran 24:35 “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” We all live under the light of sun and moon. And, in the darkness of the night’s sky, there is light. In warmth of the spring’s sun there is rebirth. Amidst Covid-19 there is hope.
American Civic Life