There is a door in my home that takes me beyond the borders of the world I walk in each day. It is a door that lets me see within others I might have passed on the street without the briefest hellos, not realizing the depth of their stories which resonated with mine. Through this door I have walked through vineyards of Tuscany, travelled the byways of Thailand, had writer’s chats with others in The Philippines, in Australia, in Spain and other far flung corners of the world. This door has led me to places where I have laughed and cried with others who have faced cancer, the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child or grandchild, a marriage, a divorce. So many passages of life have been shared as others have stepped through their doorways to meet with me in this world of shared thought.
At a low place in my journey, I met a friend in the place of shared thought who believed it was worthwhile to reach through the door into my life by letting me choose a trip – just for me – to somewhere that I dreamed of being, with one catch. It had to be within a day’s drive of my home.
I lived in the flat inland province of Manitoba and longed to see the ocean. Our lakes are beautiful but did not feel enough like the ocean so I looked south to the largest of the Great Lakes and set my sites on a town at its tip. Duluth – only a name on a map and a few pictures I could find through search engines – would be my destination.
It was a place in my life where I was alone too much of the time. Anxiety was my full time housemate which limited how much of others I could physically have around. Knowing that I needed to break the syndrome of solitariness, I chose to stay at a bed and breakfast instead of a hotel. The one I chose was a couple of kilometers from the harbor. It was a place where I could park my car and walk anywhere I needed or wanted to go in the eight days of my visit there.
There is a sense of the divine that comes with such a gift from someone you will never see face to face and so contemplating that divine was a part of this journey. I did not feel alone. There were the morning breakfasts with others who were guests in the home. There were the brief conversations with the owners who lived in the carriage house out back. There were moments on the mighty grand piano in the living room where I could play my heart into the quietness on days that I was the only guest.
From my room window there were glimpses of the great expanse of water curving along the earth surface so that the far side was hidden from my view. It was only a glimpse of the water I could see from there. Tall trees danced in the wind like curtains blowing in the breeze. Just above the top of these trees at moments the haze would lift the waters would sparkle in the sun.
For days I walked the shoreline to the harbor exploring the sand bar, riding out into the lake in a tour boat, meandering through the quirky shops lining the city streets. I walked up the hillside that cradled the lake like a bowl visiting the gorges cut deep in the sides by flowing streams. I walked and wandered, and wondered where life would go from this moment where loss of direction has become the center of my life.
The morning I rose early, the sky still covered the town in a thick blanket of darkness. The lake was calling me though. Like a junkie needing a fix, I needed to feel the breezes and hear the sound of the water lapping against the rocks. I would not be in this place of peaceful contemplation much longer. Soon I would be making the journey back to the questions without ready answers that was my life.
Dressing quietly I walked out into the slight chill of that late July morning and started down the road to the edge of the lake. The harbor wasn’t my destination nor did I want to risk the chance encounters in the park so I walked straight to the water crossing through an abandoned field.
At the water’s edge, as was true all around the edges of the town, large boulders lined the lake protecting the town from its mighty carving tools that had caused such damage in the past to the more fixed nature of manmade structures. They were the guardians at this juncture where nature met man’s best laid plans. It was there, on those rocks that I found a seat for looking out on the steel grey of the waters.
A large ship and a small duck were the first outlines to begin to find definition as light began to rise. My heart was quiet as I thought of the friend who had done this for me but who I would never see.
The opening of the sun first made itself knows as tiny flickers of flame dancing to the shore on the tips of wavelets. The fire seemed so real. For a moment I wondered if, in fact, the man I could see on the shore was throwing something out into the waves. He stood silent, though, staring out toward the water, a black silhouette against a backdrop of trees reaching out over the edge of the water. I turned back to watch the duck riding quietly on the rise and fall near the shore.
Suddenly I was enveloped by a reddish light. The water where I had been watching still wore its grayish hue. The shore on the other side of me still slept in the quietness of shadows. This light surrounded me casting my shadow on the rock behind me. Looking forward I saw the miracle of time and place that was mine in those moments. Shaded trees and elevation had somehow conspired to make this place I was sitting the meeting place with the sun. A carpet of red unfurled through the slightly pinkish grey on each side, right to me. I was held in a sense of majesty that stopped my breathing and opened the tears I held inside.
I was in awe. In those moments I thought of my friend far away and reached my hand out. But it is not that friend who held my deepest thoughts. I remembered a story of a people on a Pacific island who spoke of the day one would walk out of the sunrise to meet them and heal their wounds. In those moments, this was that One who seemed to have met me there.
The sun opened further bringing light into the day and I made my slow way back up the hill to pack for my journey home. Was it a minute? Five minutes? Less? Or more? I won’t know nor do I have a photo to hold that moment in my memory. Instead I have the indelible imprint in my spirit of that carpet of red rolled out through the greyness of my life, holding me until the door of the sun could more fully open, colouring my world again in light.