Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Perfect Stranger

Reflecting the Golden Buddha

As she cornered the angled wooden shelves of records in her sleek and silent wheelchair, she jutted out to the room, "I think I may  have dropped a book on the shelf behind me." Of the other women seated knitting or nursing on the couch, I was the first and most eagerly able to extend assistance. Bending down to pick up the book, I could feel her presence behind me, patiently awaiting and expecting my contact. A small, silver haired woman met me with grandmotherly eyes and a professorial attitude.

Upon allowing myself to share intimate space, while making extended eye contact, she asked me to retrieve a large book on Thai sculpture. As I held it steadily over her lap and slowly flipped the pages, I became her hands. She took in and admired each era's regional treasures. One in particular, she said, reminded her of a knee-high golden Buddha statue she had for decades from her partner. I remarked that I liked a particular one and she replied it appeared Italian. It seemed as if she knew my background. She knew a lot. Quite a few moments later, I was still piqued and commented that perhaps I like that one so much since my ancestry is Italian. She responded simply, "I know."
We flipped back to the cover to find the cost of this "rare" book was $70. She still mused of purchasing it.

"We are all reflections of the Buddha, you know," she told me. And, I told her, "yes, and that is why it is best when we are openly ourselves, and share our gifts." We traded more treasured secrets, some of which accredited personal experiences, and bared mystical and universal truths. What a gift to be completely present and hold sacred space for each other.
She chose to have the heavy, dictionary-like book of sculpture returned to the shelves. Then she asked me to choose a book that was of interest to me. Covering the shelves were books on many varying topics from Martin Scorcese to Neandrathals, Wild Gardens to Natural Pharmacy. Initially, I thought I might turn to my typical areas of interest, with books from Rudolf Steiner, John Holt, and many others, covering the philosophy of natural learning, nourishing the whole child and spirituality. Unreasonably, I stayed where we were and pulled a book of portraits. This particular book was a collection of photos that had stirred me before, when I was much younger, thumbing through National Geographic magazines, dreaming of being a world traveling writer and photographer.

People have always been my "thing". From a young age, I loved Archeology and Natural History, and later - Anthropology and Social Psychology. At one point, I created my own written and photograpic portfolio of people. She knew this, she must have. She knew I had a free hour while my kids were in watercolor class. She must have responded to the recent wish of mine to meet an older, female, unrelated mentor. She knew how to reach me, how to hold space for me to open up, and how to remind me of who I am as a person. What I love. What I do. What I am good at. "I'm something of a Life Coach, too," she said. "I know," I said through a full smile. The contents of the books, both the archaeological Thai sculpture book and the book of portraits were reflections of the Buddha.

My favorite exchanges, teachings, or observations are the ones that ripple out and multiply, days, weeks, months, or years later. Touched by the unfamiliar, I showed up and accepted the immediate invitation, clutching me in consistency, while harvesting a golden Buddha.