Rumi’s Caravan

Dressed as lavishly (as per the request on the invitation) as I could muster for living in a construction zone last night I went sola to listen to the beautiful music of a middle eastern quartet and the words of Rumi, Hafiz, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Wendall Barry, and many other poets drop from the lips of some Sonoma elders. With a white camelia in my hair and smokier eye makeup than I usually wear save for at burning man, I entered a room of mostly white and grey hairs…

Why, when I am trying to meet peers in this new area, I find myself more frequently at events that attract older generations, I do not know. If you know where I should go to meet men and women in my general age range who are spiritually minded and open hearted, please tell me the secret.

Anyway. Rumi has a special place in my open heart because of the poem “What was said to the rose…”

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the Cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

I heard that poem on NPR days after what I describe as my heart opening experience, or my spiritual awakening. The poem described in words what I was experiencing and led me to Rumi, which led me down a spiritual path that became my life. I gave myself to it so completely- because in the words of Rumi I felt seen, heard, understood- I felt my heart connected to the hearts of innumerous others both from 800 years ago, and in the moment of hearing this poem through the airwaves across a modern city. In short, I felt connected in that moment to all of life across time. I remember it so well, I was driving on the freeway in San Francisco, where the freeway cuts through the heart of city before the bridge. It’s like driving across rooftops and everything is laid out around you like a model of a city- there is something about that section of road that seems to hover above the city that has always mirrored my own feeling of being in the world, but not of the world…

I don’t read Rumi that much anymore. In a way the ecstasy, the lack of regard for personal preferences, my own or others, the pleasure at any and every part of the human experience, these elements of what Rumi wrote about have become integrated into who I am and the way I understand and relate to the world. There was a time when I needed those words so badly, and drank them into my soul, heart and mind, phrase by phrase- I was so tender, so open, so taken apart… these words helped me rebuild a foundation based on truth and the beauty of human experience, these words and sentiments became the new building blocks for my relationship with life.

Still, I left during the intermission, feeling already full in my heart, and ready to return home to the delicate unfolding of my own life lived… the room I live in without a door to close me off from anything, the bed on the dusty plywood floors, the warmth of blankets given me by my mother, an old family friend, my father, and myself upon marking the completion of my first vision quest. I found myself wanting to return to the unpolished songs that are just beginning to bud up out my stomach, out of my life, out of my longing, out of my desperate need to take more risks with the living of my own story. These little songlets, they are not as beautiful to others perhaps as the music I left to be with them, but they are more beautiful and more interesting to me- because they are the clunky first tellings of my own story.

The walnuts falling in the pond, the ocean that has come to me to marry, the perfect falcon that has landed on my arm and become mine.

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