Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Of Airports, Storytelling and Food for the Soul

"There are depths within me I would like to touch;
and there are depths of the Great Presence I would like to experience.
Surrender within me, O Great Presence these new depths
as I give myself up in loving abandon
to your holy creativity..."

Just as I thought I could get things done on my way to Malaybalay, Bukidnon* - last minute finishing touches on my module for a workshop - I met Minnie. The air was chilly, passengers were relaxed waiting for domestic flights. Mine was the 9:45. I took out my non-fiction James Conlon book. Snug as I was, waiting for the last youth-participant to this National Youth Peace Camp organized by an NGO I am networking with, my peripheral view saw Minnie quietly reaching into her bag. And then the scent. It was a relaxing one. My eyes met hers, she smiled and as if she knew exactly what I wanted to ask, readily answered, " It's tiger balm, the white one. It's good. Nice scent too. " Yes, I really liked the scent. I love these chinese instant medicines. They're a cure-all. That led to a friendly conversation with Minnie. One story after the other.

I don't really know what's with me, but, when I get into "peopled" places such as airports, malls, bus terminals and ladies rooms, I seem to be a great target for story-telling. Most of them elderly people, or, I would discover later, people suffering from a certain illness. Some people exude a welcoming spirit that attracts other people who might need help. And this 'help' isn't the trivial 'picking up a fallen handkerchief' thing, but can be as serious as helping someone who has "fallen" into spiritual depths. Ever experienced the spiritual depths? It's that never-ending, keeps-coming-back, feels-like-a-roller-coaster-ride-minus-the thrill feeling. I'm lost for words to describe it. Some artists call it the 'dry spells'. Poets call it "a blank page'. Others call it 'depression'.

My early arrival seemed to gather a sacred purpose. I had more than three hours to wait for boarding time. And my book read, " ...interiority means we each have a personality that is our own, a spontaneous energy that creates relationships." Spontaneous it really was. It was a surprise. Have you ever felt like some time in the past, you've met this person you're talking to? Your feeling seems to be so light with this person that everything else around becomes unbearable. It was like I went to the airport just for this purpose. As she opened up her story, I began to feel something deep opened up within me and it was good.

As we talked about the Chinese medication, I discovered her eyes seemed to be exhausted. Her voice was so soft I had to ask her to repeat what she said almost everytime. Then it came, I don't know how, I can't remember. Tears welled up as she talked and I heard her mumble about her father's death. It was four years ago. I still miss him. I am "daddy's girl". He was so gentle, loving, the kindest dad in the world. These were very much impressed into my memory. I can't forget the help-me-i-can't-understand-why look. She was grieving. After four years she never had a chance for real good grieving time. I was struck by this new reality. I had a connection with her story.

I, too, am grieving, not only for my own father's loss last year,but for so many things i have to let go in so many instances in my life. Letting go. That's the issue. Does that sound familiar? How much of our lives have been spent in "letting go"(s)? Parents, I know you can relate to this. But there is an all-familiar experience in each of us. We have had experiences of giving up things, losing friends and loved ones, yielding to unexpected situations, and actions that call for decisions so urgent, you just have to give something up for the benefit of the other. I realized that in my forty-eight years roaming about this planet called Earth, my heart aches for so much losses I've had. Finally, I decided this is what I needed to face. A real encounter with my losses. To tell my story of pain. How grim, you might say, but wait, that's exactly what I found out about facing your loss - the fact is, you can only appreciate the light, when you have been in the dark. Victory comes after the fall. What matters is, the insights and wisdom learned in the process. I remember a gold mine I found from Thomas Moore:

This 'minotaur' of my labyrinth
- my soul - this suffering, this beast
that stirs in the core of my being
is also the Asterion - the star - of my
interior life, my innermost nature.
I have to give time
to care for this suffering with
extreme reverence so that
in my fear and anger at this beast,
I do not overlook the star - the beauty
of my soul -
I have fallen into ignorance
and confusion, so that now I can see this
as an opportunity to discover that this beast
residing at the center of
my interior life is also an angel...
(from Care of the Soul, T. Moore)

And this angel is bringer of good news - that it is possible to begin again, to hope for the best, because better days are coming. Indeed, we think this journey we are taking now seems dark and dreary, but passing through raging waters and braving the strongest storms is challenge for the human spirit. Minnie talked about the things she learned from her father's passing away, and it seemed like it was endless. It was a beautiful symphony. The love she felt from friends, the care of her also-grieving mother; just as she was talking to me everything seemed so significant now. Until that time in the airport, she never felt the need to remember and tell her story. Getting down into the depths is sometimes necessary for the spirit within to quiet down, be still and know, trust and let go (Ps. 46:`10). Most of the time it is the conflict within us that is more difficult to come to terms with than all the battles in the history of the world. As I told Minnie to befriend this pain within her, my heart was full of compassion. I couldn't give her anything except cry with her, hold her hand and assure her of God's faithfulness.

What ever happened to my new-found friend? We exchanged mobile numbers before we said goodbye (yes, just as the last participant arrived, we were done with our sharing), exchanged kisses, hugs, "be safe"s and "take care"s. Up to this moment in time, we are good friends and will remain so as long as life breathes. This is food for the soul...nourishing, nurturing...go gently through life...

(thanks for photos from friends everywhere...)

*Bukidnon is a landlocked plateau province of the Philippines located in the Northern Mindanao region. Its capital is Malaybalay City. The province borders, clockwise starting from the north, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, and Lanao del Norte.

Bukidnon is considered by Filipinos to be the food basket of Mindanao. It is the major producer of rice and corn in the region. Plantations in the province also produce pineapples, bananas and sugarcane.

It has two important landmarks, Mt. Kitanglad and Pulangi River. Mt. Kitanglad is 2,955 meters above sea level. Pulangi River, on the other hand, traverses through the northeastern and southern part of the province towards the Rio Grande of Mindanao.
The province's total land area is 829,378 hectares (8, 293.78 square kilometers). It accounts for 59 percent (59%) of Northern Mindanao.


  1. You had written a lot today, so I´ll probably come back and comment more later.

    I´m also a person that people tells their story to. Some people goes around all life never telling any one what they really need to tell someone. I feel honored every timne anyone feels that they can trust me with their story.
    Have a great day now!

  2. you truly are a person with depth, Christer. i too am indeed honored when people trust me with their life story, particularly the very fragile ones. you know, i had gone through so much brokenness and woundedness in my life and since about 10 years ago, i'm helping other people (particularly women) help themselves "bind up their wounds" and give them the hope of healing. i get to do counseling almost everyday in my office. we have a line open for counseling. i'm actually accompanying two women as they pass through a process in their life. one is a late teener, whose problem is getting out of being stuck in an addiction, and the other, a fortyish woman, helping her get through an abortion experience (the grieving process). it's such a liberating experience to fulfill this kind of work - a mission actually.

    well, thanks for dropping by Christer! please do come around again's your tai-chi goin? i hope to organize my shi-ba-shi notes with sketches so i can post them here...

    warm smiles from our 28 deg celsius weather!


  3. Thank you for sharing.... A lot to absorb. Blessings and hugs...

  4. I love the beauty of your posts.. thank you for sharing

  5. It is strange how some people just seem to invite people to open up to them. Thanks that there are.

    Weena amazing stuff, and your words are so amazing. The images and art are captivating. I will return and re read.

  6. Thanks for dropping by!

    JBR, warm, tight, real hugs here!

    Kringle, my happiness is to share...warm hugs here!

    AussiemadeFriend, thanks for affirming! you're always welcome here...warm hugs too!


  7. Womanwisdom...thank you for following my photo blog and I am glad I visited yours! I have read your posts and found them very interesting and I also always like learning about other cultures as well. Have a good one!