Our own miracle


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Category: Reflections Date: 01 Mar 04


Ash Wednesday on our islands: Ethereal, whimsical, breezy, sunshiny, cool, soft, a place where past, present and future meet amiably, like old friends who marvel in the downy comfort of being there for one another.


The heart and mind idly scans the world it inhabits, shores up experience, meanders, for once the tightly braided energy loosens up, and we watch.


It's an epiphany of small things.


It's an emptying out of the lashing energy and heat of Carnival.


It's about remnants of days freshly gone: tinsel on the face of an immaculately dressed man at work.


It's about lingering remembered exuberance in smiling eyes that seem to marvel at their own boldness, broken barriers, memorable connections.


The day belongs to the breeze. To trees shedding petals. To the quiet streets, the crackle of raked leaves and party debris.


The day is scattered, witnessed through a prism of human experience.


The absence of noise, music, of visual stimulation, of intoxication heightens our awareness of ourselves. We look at ourselves, around us, as if for the first time.


We marvel.


Past: Incredible that I could be driving around a "Savannah" in the year 2004 in the West Indies and in my head, long dissolved days through a book, images of India in the 1800s; of the time during the mutiny when Muslim and Hindu soldiers raging at their British rulers at having to use cartridges made with pig and cow fat uniting to fight for independence. Of the brutal time when British women were suffocated to death, Indian women raped and rebel soldiers hanged after being made to lick blood off the ground. Of a time of dysentery, small pox, heatstroke, starvation. Of an extraordinary time of grace and extremes-the Rani of Jhansi dying in battle on her horse, of gracious courtyards where rose petals floated in women's bathtubs, of India's many kingdoms and palaces, of unbelievable extravagances, of famine as skeletal men and women waited to die. There was my own past also; genes and experience, psyche and circumstance culled into the moment, that made me, and makes you who you are-a human being experiencing this world for a number of years in a certain time in our own particular, mostly peculiar way.


There's that.


Present: At around half past four I am walking up the stairs in the General Hospital to Ward 22 to visit a friend's mother-Beverley, (not her real name) whose leg was amputated over Carnival. Beverley is an overweight woman in her late sixties who lives in the Maraval hills. She has no education to speak of but when you look at what she's rustled up, she's giving the burnt orange trees waving over the green mountain we can see from her bed some real competition. Her four daughters have had three daughters. They live with her husband and herself in a home they have made with his carpentry skills and her upbringing. All the women have jobs-some low paying-Beverley herself has been a cleaner at a business place for years.


Every penny is saved, every moment is precious "so the girls get into St Joseph's Convent and go to university". They are Baptists strung together into a community with song, touch, spirit. We are standing by the bedside, her youngest daughter and I. Her daughter uncovers the flask and feeds her carefully made soup-no sweet, no starch. Too much of both and a careless doctor have brought her to this dreaded diabetic moment-with a stump instead of a leg. Her husband walks in and the atmosphere crackles because he gives this ill, elderly woman a look, a gaze, that Romeo's Juliet would have died for. "I wish my husband would look at me like that," I say. She tells me to hush my mouth with so much affection I blush. I look around the ward. A daughter is rubbing her mother's feet. A teenager who I'm told has leukaemia is laughing on the cellphone, her natural youthful immersion in the moment drowning out illness. Beverley's friend, Sister Mavis, walks in.


Her feet are swollen also with diabetes. She asks us to hold hands. Sister Mavis prays for healing, not just for Beverley, but for every person in the ward. She prays for strength. She closes with the conviction that "there is a miracle in every life". Six pairs of eyes are wet when we open them. An unlikely place for an epiphany but there it was, the epiphany of small things. What a wonderful belief. We each have our own miracle.


Look through the prism. The waves crash around our islands. Further afield, newspapers keep track of regular injustices the world thrashes about, buckling under earthquakes, bigoted suicide bombers. Also with creation - people across the world somewhere are gazing at masterpieces; an astute actress delights an audience with her delivery of The Taming of the Shrew.


Biographies are written, symphonies play, operas are sung, people flock to see the eternal ballerina in Giselle, the sound of a flute fills the mountain air somewhere far away. Drum beats are unstoppable.


The future: The momentum is there-destruction and atrophy is only a spur for ordinary humans like us, to live harder, with more courage, with power behind our grit, so we can dig deeply into the lives around us, gather up the raw clay of different ours and others, and create and create and create.


That's what Ash Wednesday is-eternal spring that makes all that is hopeless, sad, ugly, and mean-spirited into lies.


See the petal gently brush your arm. Watch the grit in that woman's eyes.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur