Two weeks ago a group of artists and writers arrived for their annual creative respite and social gathering here at the ranch. It's an event we have come to look forward to, people making time to enjoy and celebrate each other and their work. This year, Grayson (not her real name), a wonderful screen writer, arrived early. She looked thinner than last year - even a little bluish in the extremities and around the lips. Her husband rolled a large machine into the great room and set it next to a lounge chair.
Grayson plopped down in the chair and breathed many oxygen treatments each day. This year, she said, her trip was more about resting than writing her latest screen play. The time away from her busy schedule running a non-profit for disenfranchised women made her realize that she needed rest.
We talked of the healing power of the body. She was very interested in doing sessions of the healing breath meditation I teach. I led her in private sessions and in group sessions with the other artists throughout the week. Grayson had been born with a hole in her heart and had been in and out of hospitals her whole life to repair it. In the breathing meditation sessions she became aware of the chronic fear she held in her body from a lifetime of illness and was able to release some of it.
Before she left the ranch, Grayson felt revived. She made plans to come back next month and write for a few days and do some more of the healing breath meditation. In 1986 the doctors had given her a few months to live and she made it another twenty something years before leaving this earth last Friday, a week after she left the Ranch.
Last year another artist in the group began a painting on a 2'x20' canvass. This year the canvass came alive as she added familiar faces from the group. Grayson's right-side Florentine profile rests in the center at the bottom -- a fulcrum between the elderly intellectual gentleman on the left side of the painting and the younger middle-aged novelist on the right. The head of a horse is tatooed on Grayson's right shoulder. I remember having a conversation about what that was, why the horse? She told me it was from her loving husband's family crest. We laughed about having your man's tatoo on your arm. (I have six male dogs here at the ranch who are always marking their territory so the idea of your man's mark on your arm is especially funny to me.)
That memory of our conversation brought me back to the question of what's it all for? Things we talked about, like when Grayson spent 45 minutes telling me the story of her screen play which now will forever remain an ephemeral memory. A life, in her 40's, gone.
Experiencing faith is like putting on 3-D glasses - you have to change perspective. Faith is found in the spaces in between, we laughed at being tatooed with a man's mark while at the same time we had so much gratitude for our the love of our husbands. Those are the ingredients of faith -- laughter, gratitude, love, and perspective. Grayson's defiance of the doctors' 1986 diagnosis gave others faith as we watched her persist against the odds. By the sheer act of being alive she gave those around her faith to overcome everyday obstacles.