Today is the feast of All Souls when in the Catholic tradition we remember those who have died and gone before us. The arrival of a hard frost this cold November morning helps us understand how it became urgent to gather into the storehouses in a final harvest all that would help during the coming winter. The dark also made it easier to remember those who had died. However, what to let go of, and what to hold on to, are lessons we have to learn every day:
At a gathering in San Francisco, I met Marco, a careful and patient photographer from Santa Clara. When asked what surprised him during the last year, his voice began to quiver. He’d witnessed two breaths that had changed his life. His daughter’s first breath. Then his mother’s last breath. As his daughter inhaled the world, it seemed to awaken her soul on Earth. As his mother exhaled her years, it seemed to free her soul of the world. These two breaths jarred Marco to live more openly and honestly. He took these two breaths into his own daily breathing and quickly saw their common presence in everyone’s breathing. Is it possible that with each inhalation, we take in the world and awaken our soul? And with each exhalation, do we free ourselves of the world, which inevitably entangles us?
Is this how we fill up and empty a hundred times a day, always seeking the gift of the two breaths?
Perhaps this is the work of being.
Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen