We were at the garden center this past weekend and as we made our way to the register with our plants in hand, we passed the stone statue area. I saw statues of Buddha, Japanese tea houses, little smiling frogs, and Catholic Saints. I felt a smile emerge and my heart light up. I was flooded with memories of my Italian-Catholic maternal grandparents. They lived in Pennsylvania and every so often, we would make the trip to visit. Typically, my brother and I slept in the back room, where there were two twin beds, a ton of playspace, and cupboards full of interesting things to play with.
The thing that stood out the most (besides the delicious Italian food, playing with cousins, and drinking way too much soda pop), was that my grandparents always took time in the morning and at night and said their prayers. They had their prayer books and rosaries and would sit gazing out the window, sitting on the side of their bed. We never had to be told not to bother them. When my grandfather got sick, I remember a small statue of St. Francis was put in the backyard. I think my aunts & uncles created a natural altar around it; plants, a bird bath, and stepping stones. It was near the brown shed and back by the fence under a tree. Thinking back on that, it was my first introduction to an altar outside of church. We would walk up to St. Francis and say a prayer for Grandpa. It was always so quiet and peaceful.
When I was in my late teens, I started to dive into Eastern religion and philosophy; Buddhism, Zen, meditation, and yoga. It was easier for me to access and I quickly started to become frustrated with how women were viewed in the Catholic religion. I stopped going to church regularly after I was confirmed. Through college, I continued my studies of the East; fascinated with the four noble truths, believing in life after death, all of it. I started to embrace the seeker within. In my early twenties, I, like most twenty year olds, lived in a black & white world. Pushing limits and being all radical. Then life happened. Things got messy. Things got grey. And I started praying again.
I would pray for big things and little things. I would pray I would make it to the ski resort safely by hitchhiking during my sophomore year of college. I would pray that my flight home wouldn't be delayed because of weather. I would pray that my internal darkness would subside just a bit so I could function in my classes. That was college.
Today, I pray for parking spots and green lights, for light inboxes, for the young man being taken away in an ambulance from a bus stop, for the teaching gig, for the grant funds, for the movie to be good, for my family to be well, for my friends to be happy in their lives, for the babies to be healthy and happy, for the ice cream shoppe to have my favorite flavor, for dress to look good, for the health and happiness of my mate, for the world to have more joy, for more laughter and dancing and less harming and hurting. Yah. I pray. A lot.
When I saw that statue this past weekend, I was so deeply reminded of how much of my upbringing has influenced my relationship with the divine today. Of course, I have made my own recipe; a little bit of meditation, some yoga philosophy, Catholic church a few times a year, a whole lot of love and kindness (even when things are shitty), and lots of sprinkles of prayers. My mornings mirror those of my grandparents; sitting in silence, sending prayers out into the universe, holding my mala beads. Feeling my heart beat, my breath, having faith that each day is an opportunity to send out a prayer because you just never know. Never.