..Victoria Barkley..

Seasons of Gandhi

Crossing the street at Union Square, I caught a glimmer of white out of the corner of my eye. This sliver of light was so serendipitous that I almost missed it. It was a lily dangling from the hand of Gandhi's statue.

Such simple beauty in an unexpected place, an unassuming single stem in the hand of this hero of peace, moved me to take a picture before I passed it by. "Wow, if life could only be this humbly uncomplicated!" I sighed with sadness clicking the camera.

I did a lot of aimless walking back then. Just spending time, moving my feet, in order to stay sane. It was too soon to have a sense of direction yet. Death of a loved one can disrupt even the best of plans.

Dazed and disoriented, I roamed the city streets, looking for the newly dead somewhere out there, mingling among the forms of the living. Many a sleepless night blurred with shallow dreamless sleep altered my waking reality.

Cocooned in a film of delusion, I restlessly wandered for hours. The physical world was shape-shifting and dreamlike. I could almost hear his voice in the traffic noise; nearly touch his hand in the wind. There is no logic in loss.

Mentally scattered in too many directions, I was left without a center to reconnect the pieces. This radical openness left me strangely vulnerable to all that was good, true and beautiful. Nothing else could reach me.

I met the metal Gandhi at a time when groggy with grief I could find no comfort anywhere and in an instant, something had shifted.

Had there not been that white lily reflecting a single ray of sun through the clouds, just at the right moment, the grey of the scene would have blended it all back into urban obscurity.

Long after the camera's shutter blinked, I was still seeing in my mind's eye that small, frail, nearly naked male, staff in hand, walking down the path of peace, with a single flower, surrounded by the market madness of Manhattan.

I felt a wave of tenderness and compassion welling up inside me at the thought of this enigmatic little man, who was so authentic that even his death was life-affirming. He changed the world by surrendering all to Spirit, retaining nothing but his own humanity and a capacity to love beyond measure.

This encounter, through beauty, with the sacred in the most mundane of places broke the spell of sadness and helped aim my mind's lack of focus away from angst, and more in line with light.

Seeking solace, I frequently revisited that corner of the square throughout the year, to sit with Gandhi submerged in silence in one of the noisiest of places. Hurting and raw, stripped of my defenses I allowed the power of hidden resources to tend to my inner needs.

I took more snapshots of Mahatma walking in the rain, in the snow, with many flowers blooming at his feet in the spring and summer, and fallen leaves in autumn.

Continuing to rendezvous with Gandhi, he became my symbol of sanctuary. The stone path, he forever walks by the shrubs, a place where I could rest in the eye of the storm, awaiting my next step yet to be born.

By the time the disposable camera finally ran out of film, I was in a very different emotional space, one of calm acceptance and of hope of new beginnings.

The lifting of grief over time was a gift of Grace. My conscious self was not the agent of this emotional transformation. I didn't try to stop the tears, suppress the sadness, or strive to "be positive." I resisted none of my own "negativity." I did nothing; patiently waiting, I gave myself space to just let me be.

After developing the film with those pictures, I realized that what had really happened was a miracle. During those quiet months, heaven was working beneath the surface of events on my behalf, so I could reconnect with life and emerge renewed. I wasn't aimlessly wondering, wasting time after all; I was healing with God and Gandhi.

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