“If we merge mercy with might, and might
Then love becomes our legacy,
And change, our children’s birthright.”
I’ve witnessed miracles, and seen shapeshifters take new forms to escape by feather and foot. One sprinted into the desert, disappearing into a swirling, amber-colored dust. The other was lifted by wind to go up beyond the turbulent flow of alley and calle.
Looking at me with a toothless smile he started laughing, then exploded in a loud, unsettling cackle, a fused wail, and a jeer, unlike anything I’d ever heard. He didn’t seem to put forth any effort, yet his thin-bodied yodel was louder than a garbage truck.
He stood to walk away but looked back over his shoulder and laughed. His threadbare pants, worn down to nothing, completely exposed his butt cheeks. I was right behind him when he turned a corner into a narrow side alley. Seconds later, I looked to see where he went. I saw buildings but no windows or doors. The alley was empty yet filled with echoes. A crow cawed and lifted to fly, going up like a funeral in feathers.
Two decades later in Northeast Arizona, I arrived at a remote location for an appointment with someone known to the Navajo community as a ‘medicine man.’ His granddaughter met several of us and said, “You’re here to see grandfather? He was right here.”
She led us around a small Hogan from the east to the west where I saw a roadrunner making time to get away. Its feathers were brown. Grandfather was booking it.
Indigenous people are wary of strangers, and I don’t blame them. They have a history of people bringing multiple viruses from afar. I do my best to avoid sickness too, and I understand grandfather on the run.
The protagonist in one of my favorite films, The Bar Fly, is a hard-drinking, fist-fighting poet, who was asked if he disliked people. “It’s not that I dislike people, I just kinda’ feel better when they’re not around,” he said.
The collective psyche and health of this land look to be on life support, and it’s hard to trust the state of the state or the health of our neighbor. We don’t need more bad news, and yet the sickness around us is shaping our stories. It was one virus, but now it’s a four-headed beast shifting into deadlier forms by the day. My feathers are ruffled in the wind during these last days of the year, and my roadrunner legs are prepped for a sprint into unsocial space.
I’ve not planned a trip to India, or to visit Grandfather in his Hogan, but want to go where the gurus, medicine men, and medicine women go. Absent a plane ticket, I travel to yoga to enter space where the presence of something more deeply interfused, in William Wordsworth’s words, turns the worm of a transforming equation in me from the inside out.
This ‘something interfused’ has been a constancy in my life – an assurance at the core, always evolving and steady – a presence that’s pushed my life by a gentle breeze into each moment with a breath infinitely more vigorous than a pale religiosity.
Now, the year draws nigh, and we’re all making tracks through turbulent seas and skies. We may have forgotten, but the rumor of peace is tenacious – it’s still out there. And we do well to ask again and again, what of peace? Do you yearn to inhabit the space of peace?
When our collective yearning for peace brings a merger of mercy, with right and might, the generative shape of hope and hard-won happiness will be the new gestalt. Peace will be the gift we present in our gatherings, and mercy will flesh itself out through you and me at the dimming of the year. In breathed hope, born of our collective yearning for peace and joy, may we shapeshift into vessels of mercy and hope and testify once again to the rumor and the reality of peace.