48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #48: h(om)e

In Love on February 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Om is the whole universe coalesced into a single sound and represents the union of mind, body, and spirit (yoga.about.com); used in contemplation of ultimate reality (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary)

A few years ago, I was in the habit of going to Woodard Bay a few times a week to swim. Part of a natural reserve, it features a quiet inlet that’s usually people-free. One particular day it was sunny and calm, so I took my time getting in and out of the water, instead of the mad dash and dip I usually do when swimming in the Pacific Northwest.

After I dried off, I sat on the beach a while, soaking up the sun, the salt air, the barking of distant harbor seals, herons grumbling and rumbling overhead, the soft plash of the Sound against the shore. The tide was coming in.

Eventually I got up and headed back toward the park entrance, about a mile away. And I noticed a strange thing. The forest was gorgeous. Each individual evergreen, each bush of salal and blackberry, each nettle was magnificent.

I slowed to take it in. Was it the light? I felt as if I had never seen this place before, never noticed how stunningly beautiful everything is. I stopped and looked around… and realized that there was no difference between me and the trees. None.

It wasn’t a huge gong-like revelation. It was quiet, as if it had been there all along, and I just now noticed. I was looking at god. I was looking at me.

I felt an incredible peace. There is no they, only us, all together. One. I got it, viscerally, and started weeping with gratitude. I knew in my bones (which are leased, at best) that there is nothing wrong — not with me, not with the world, not with anyone. Ever. We are all love(d).

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “It was the most basic of events. It was heaven, yes. It was the deepest love I’d ever experienced, beyond anything I could have previously imagined, but it wasn’t euphoric. It wasn’t exciting… It was just obvious. Like when you’ve been looking at an optical illusion for a long time, straining your eyes to decode the trick, and suddenly your cognizance shifts and there — now you can clearly see it!”

My experience of Oneness lasted an eternity, an hour, three minutes. I don’t know how long I stood in one place, or when I started walking again. I am, now, slightly embarrassed to relate this incident. Don’t intelligent people scoff at the idea of god? I do believe that god is love is god, but I also don’t proclaim it to strangers (or at least not very often). But it happened to me, this experience of the Divine, more than once.

And just to bring the notion home, I have only to read the Woodard Bay interpretive sign again:
Like the scent of saltwater, you are welcome here.

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