One night, after a trying day trudging along rough paths to reach a town where the local inn keeper almost turned us away as a ploy for forcing a higher price, we were sitting in a dirty, dishevelled room. I asked myself for the hundreth time why I had left home to follow a person whom most people saw as a tramp. My friend Miriam, my sisters and my parents had all tried to stop me and yet here I was.
My feet were sore, my mouth dry, the local wine was undrinkable and I only had a bite of mouldy bread. I gathered my shawl about me and slowly crept out of the room, not that any of the disciples noticed. All of them were wondering why Jesus had brought along a woman and some had crude suggestions.
We were beside the sea and so I found a spot under some tamarind trees which sparse shade covered me with their wispy branches. I sat looking at the sea rolling majestically in and out. The stars were shining and as I stretched my legs out into the warm sand I started to breathe more calmly, as the anxieties and disturbances of the day let go their grip and my body started to unwind.
"Mary..." He spoke like a sigh. I was startled and looked at Him in surprise. "Did you think I hadn't noticed your leaving?" He sat down beside me, His sandalled feet resting in the sand.
Suddenly I tensed. Had I offended Him? He shook His head. "You can't offend me, whatever you do."
I did not dare look at Him but sat silently holding on to what He had said, pushing it about in my mind. My entire life had been spent offending someone or other. I was in that dark mood when bitterness against others spilled into self mockery.
"Why do you think you've done anything bad?" He asked. "If you were to change your view and look carefully at how things are, you would feel happier. What counts is not the cruel words people say but how things really are. This rolling water, the stars which existed long before you and will shine on long after you are dead. You are a part of all this." He gestured the scene ahead of us. "You can no more say that Mary does bad things than that a crab does wrong when it moves sideways instead of forwards like most creatures."
I could not help glancing at Him, puzzled by the things He was saying and suppressing a guilty smile at the notion of a crab doing wrong. I looked up and saw Him. "There. You see?"
But I did not want to see. It suited me to be lowly, thinking I was bad. If I pretended to be better then better would be expected of me and that would be even more of a strain than just getting along as I was. I also knew which word was whispered about me every time we entered a new town. I turned briefly towards Him, He must know what they said too. Did He not care how cutting people's tongues could be?
"Mary look into yourself. You are a part of everything you see. These pebbles, this sand, these branches, this sky are who you are. You came out of this earth every bit as this tree did and you are as eternal as a star. If you hold on to this idea nothing can hurt you. One day after all the turmoil, unruly havoc, fear, destruction and grief, you will become like a star in the celestial eternity prepared for you. All the pain and discomfort of this and other worse moments, will pass."
I stared at the stars, so vivid against the velvet sky as I felt myself floating on sand, rocked by His words as if they were rolling me back and forth along with the pebbles in the ocean, till I was alseep.
This piece was written while I was listening to Hagen Quartet - Maurice Ravel - String Quartet in F - Allegro moderato, Très doux (1/4) [link]