I was cleaning, clearing, rearranging, disposing. I thought you might ask what I was doing. I thought you might stay my hand, ask me to stop the relentless curation of our life together. But you didn’t. You didn’t ask much about what I was doing. You didn’t ask about the things I threw away, the things I shredded, the things I burned.
When it came time to dispose of the holy dirt I had brought back from our trip to New Mexico, our first trip together, I knew it had to go back to the earth somehow. It had come from the earth, from the hole in the church floor, the hole I had inadvertently stepped backward into while I was looking around the church where the miracles were performed.
I couldn’t throw it away, I couldn’t scatter it to the winds, I couldn’t just abandon it on the ground. It didn’t feel right to bury it in the New England soil, so far from the warm, dry place it had come from. But it wanted to return to the earth.
It wasn’t practical to fly back to New Mexico, to the church in Chimayo, the place we had gone on our first real vacation together. But the dirt, which I had scooped into a cup and carried back in a plastic baggie with me and kept in a glass jar on my bureau for nearly twenty years, wanted to be returned.
After we visited the church in Chimayo, we stayed at the inn that was quite old, I took a warm bath, stretching out after the long day. The bed was tall enough that there was a small step stool next to it. The mattress was soft and wide.
While we lay there in the evening, you gave me the box with the kaleidoscope in it. You had seen me admiring it in a shop the day before and had bought it while I browsed in one of the other shops, ducking out a moment when I didn’t even notice.
I was enchanted by the mechanism – a silver tube about two inches long, with another tube filled with tiny colored beads attached to it perpendicularly. When I looked through the tiny viewer, the colors twisted over each other again and again. Magical, I whispered, smiling.
My delight made you fall in love with me a little more. There was a lot I didn’t know at that moment. I didn’t know I could feel any other way about you. I didn’t know then what it would feel like when I lost the path to you. And I didn’t know what it would feel like when you stopped searching for me.
So when it finally did come time to dispose of the dirt from the church in New Mexico, I climbed the mountain to the place where the bare granite was exposed, where the trees grew down before they grew up again.
I sat down to rest, the bald stone warm below my palms. The water that coursed down the rocks didn’t pause, crushing downward as it had done for hundreds of years. Undisturbed by my presence, it didn’t recognize me, and it wouldn’t remember my name after I was gone.
Instead, it washed away the stones, grain by grain, shaping them, smooth and curved. I pinched small handfuls of dirt and began to throw them. The dust scattered in the still air, tiny particles hanging for a moment in the water, then floating away. At a loss for what to say, I began to recite an Our Father. And when those words ran out, a Hail Mary. They were the only prayers I could remember.