(Continued from last week…)
After the rapture of sunrise, she goes indoors, makes coffee, hurries to her room, climbs back into the book.
She is once again in the story circle. She arranges herself on the cushion, smiles at her guide already seated beside her, and turns again to the storyteller.
Ra, the firstborn, burns with jealousy.
He decrees that no child may come forth
from the womb of Nut on any day of his year.
The Sky writhes in torment,
her full belly unable to release life.
In her womb, Isis and Osiris become lovers,
Seth rages, Horus, the twice-born,
and their dark sister Nephthys wait.
Wise Thoth challenges Ra to a game of checkers.
Skillfully, the moon wins bits of light
until he has five days.
On each of these days, Mother Sky gives birth.
The guide gestures towards another room. “It is the place before time and beyond time. Go inside and look at your life as it was before your birth, and as it is now.”
The woman goes inside, allows herself to be taken into no time. The formless loneliness that fills her has been with her all her life. It has led her to seek love in many places, led her to become one of a community of women. In this timeless realm, she finds herself in the womb of Nut, waiting to be reborn. It is a comfort, though she cannot think why it should be.
From far away a bell startles her, breaks into her thoughts, and she finds herself again in the community residence. The light suggests early evening, time for supper with the others who live here. She has no idea what she will say should they ask her how she spent the afternoon.
That night the woman dreams she is held in an embrace of love more tender than any she has known. She wakens glad, eats a hurried breakfast and steps back into the book.
Isis and Osiris travel across Egypt giving gifts.
Osiris teaches the secrets of the Nile,
the taming of cattle, the planting of seed,
the guiding of the plough.
At night he plays his reed pipe,
enchanting the people with the songs of Mother Sky.
Isis teaches the women the moon’s cycles,
the shapes of the stars,
the rhythms of the seasons.
She dances with them under the moon’s soft light.
In Ra’s light, she teaches them to weave,
to transform flax to thread, thread to linen.
She gives them the song of the wheel.
She loves them into beauty.
When they are alone again, the guide tells her it is time to learn the secret lore of the ancient Egyptians. She teaches her the skill of placing her spirit, her Ka, in an imaginary way in a tree or a bird, then looking back at the self through wise eyes.
The woman places her thought in a mountain she has loved, and imagines the mountain gazing at her, seeing her power for movement and speech, for singing and dancing, for growth and change, gifts the mountain does not possess. Through that ancient gaze, the woman sees how wasteful she is of her immense possibilities, her capacity for fulness of life, how she is always seeking and discontent. It seems the mountain looks on her with compassion, and says, “Just rest for awhile and enjoy the beauty.”
The woman learns to make simple hieroglyphs, pictures that carry levels of meaning. She shapes a message: I alone in nature sense the Holy. The Holy embraces me with love. Again alone beside a tree I weep for loss. The Holy returns. A bird sings. I know I am not alone in nature. The woman smiles at the childish drawings that have just told her the story of her life.
When they next return to the room of storytelling, the luminous days of the reign of Isis and Osiris are ending.
Seth rages at the lovers.
From gold and precious gems, he crafts a coffin
and tricks Osiris into lying in it.
He seals the coffin and hurls it into the Nile.
Isis cuts her hair, disguises herself as a beggar
and sets out to search for her husband.
In the far land of Byblos,
the coffin has been caught in a tamarisk tree.
Magically, the tree grows around it.
So great is this wonder that the King
takes it as a pillar for his great hall.
Weary and worn, no longer beautiful,
Isis comes at last to the King’s Hall.
She enters by the back door,
asks to be a servant,
to care for the children of the King.
Her love wins her the release of the coffin
from the pillar of tamarisk.
A touch on her arm from her guide and they leave the story room. “Today you must find the places in your story where you have been seeking a lost beloved,” she tells her. “I’m going to take you into a larger room where you may walk, dance if you like, and let the memories return. Don’t be afraid.”
The woman is neither afraid nor expectant. In her long search for understanding, she has often visited the place of memory. But the memory that comes is one buried in the dust of forgetfulness.
She is a high school student, perhaps thirteen. On her way home from school, she has come to pray in the large stone Church. It is cool and quiet here. She likes it. Sometimes she walks around the Church praying at each of the carved scenes that tell the story of the sufferings and death of Jesus. She likes to think of how much he must love her, to go through all that for her.
But today she happens to look at the marble statue of the Virgin Mary. That word virgin sounds as cold to her as the marble from which the image was carved. She shivers a bit and looks away. On the bench beside her, someone has left a prayer book. She glances at an open page, sees the words, “I am your mother, Mary”. If the marble statue had broken open to show her a beating human heart, the effect would not have been any more powerful.