Ash Wednesday March 9 2011
“Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Tonight we got a smudge of black
Upon our foreheads – symbolic “dust.”
I felt drawn back to childhood –
And felt again my school-aged self –
Impressionable red-headed child
Thinking about dying, about becoming dust—
Feeling chilled and fearful,
My colored life turned suddenly to gray, that ashen color.
What about living? About joy?
About my hopeful heart that wished so hard for light and love?
“Remember, Man, that thou art Dust!” – Only dust, no more.
But tonight, an old woman — graying crone —
I patted on the head that little inner child;
I hugged her close, and whispered in her ear
That the words she’d found so fearful
Meant something other than they seemed –
That they were words of joy reminding how
We’re one with earth, the universe, and every creature.
God’s dust is shared by all of us,
Reflecting motes of splendor outward –
Infinitely glorious mantle of divinity.
In recent weeks, while studying forgiveness, I’ve alternated between gray repentance and atonement on the one hand, and joyful surrender on the other. I’ve learned to acknowledge more than I ever have before the ways in which my human traits – my attachment to ego, to self – have led me thoughtlessly to cause pain to others. I haven’t intended this pain. I’ve barely been conscious of it. I’ve been much more aware of my alibis – the persons, actions or circumstances that have tricked me into believing that I had to protect myself. At the same time, I’ve been learning, for the first time, the importance of truly trusting that I am not really ego but a part of universal spirit. I’ve gotten fleeting glimpses of the universal nature of spirit and love – the immutable Truth that never varies, that can never vary. If this is so, my fear for my safety is actually a bad dream, from which I can awaken into light and joy.
I do need to remember that my ego – seemingly so real – is fleeting; it’s as meaningless as dust. I also need to come fully into the real picture –increasing my awareness that the shared cosmic soul-stuff truly is my spirit’s nature, that I truly am one with infinite light and happiness. I can imagine this shared soul as golden light particles suffusing all creation – resembling the particles of dust that appear in a sunbeam. It’s such a different way of looking at the reality behind the dream of day to day life than the vision I had as a child experiencing Ash Wednesday and the church’s reminder of what’s real. It’s such a different view of “dust.”