Today is March 4th, a date that for 46 years I’ve called my “spiritual holiday.” In 1966, still encased in the rigid expectations of a girl who’d grown up in the fifties in a small town with a Victorian grandmother in the Bible Baptist belt—you can see the picture, right—I experienced a moment that lifted me from that world. I was almost twenty, and was supposed to get engaged, married, go to church, raise children and maybe teach music in the public schools. I was also someone who desperately wanted security, not growing up with either a mother or a father. Luckily my grandmother rescued me and took me to live with her—all this is captured in my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother—but the years of awakening, the step by step movement into finding out who I was, is a much longer story, as it is for all of us.
On March 4th, 1966, I walked in the silent soft snow on the University of Illinois campus early in the morning. I was alone amidst a few bare trees etching the white sky. Each snowflake was individually wrapped like a present, fluttering toward me in a perfect picture of the peace of a snowy day, no wind, a black and white singular moment. It wasn’t as if a voice spoke to me exactly, but a sweet shiver moved up and down my body, giving me the sense that the life I was looking for was yet to come, but I would have to break out of the mold of expectations to find it. I would have to fly away from the world of expectations and illusions of security.
We all know that though steps of our development all add up eventually –as we become a whole person. Each step becomes lost in the blur of memories, except for a few that stand out. I call these “turning points” when I teach my memoir students. I ask them to collect a list of these moments to help them remember, to help them gather these points of light.
As I grew up, I had gotten used to fear guiding me, of having a sense of doom, of things going wrong—as they often had with my family—mother, father, and grandmother ending up in hate for each other, at times each of them refusing to speak to me, but my basic nature was optimistic. After all, when you have seen everyone melt down all the time, watching them as they tore each other apart, it just seems natural to find a new way to see things. As a cellist and pianist, I knew that music could lift us away from our sorrows, and I knew that books could navigate me away from an unpleasant reality. I was one of those flashlight under the covers kids. The arts held a promise of hope, as did this perfect moment on a snowy day, on March 4th.
I have celebrated Marching Forth on this day all these years, sharing it with my friends and family. It’s a day to celebrate being alive—which we should do every day—but just in case we forget, we can create a special day for ourselves.
What is your special day of spiritual awakening? How do you celebrate it?
Lovely post and remembrance of an important turning point — in the snow 🙂
Am so pleased to have found your blog and look forward to exploring it further.
Cheers from across the Pond.
Thanks Carolyn! Great to have a reader from across the pond! Say more about your writing and your projects, if you like!
Wonderful day of awakening! And wonderful of you to celebrate each March Forth.
I vividly recall a moment in time when nineteen years old, walking alone on a street under the overarching bare trees on a chilly spring evening in Oak Park, Illinois. As I pondered choices I was about to make, I suddenly was aware in the pools of light cast by the old fashioned street lamps, that there were tiny green buds on the branches–on every tree. A voice that came with that vision communicated to me that “Everything would always be all right,” not so much in words, but as an urgent and deep truth embracing me.
I don’t recall the exact date, but early spring, 1961, outside Chicago. Later that month I resolved to move to California.
Hi Kate–thanks for sharing your moment–in Illinois too-when time seemed to stop and you knew a new truth. Glad you moved to CA!
I loved this post and the comments following…
Thanks Patricia, It was so fun to hear other people’s stories about a special day of awakening!
Happy March 4th to you. Sounds like having a special day to celebrate our journey and our growing is needed by most of us. Thanks for sharing.
Interesting thought — to have a specific date. I have no dates, just generally placed memory fragments, and not all happened in a flash. Some took weeks or months to ripen, as in coming to realize and accept (after discovering I was pregnant with my third child — while serving as vice-president of our local Zero Population Growth chapter) that there were aspects of life I could not control. That one I can place with certainty. One that did come in a flash was reaching for my robe on the back of the bathroom door and realizing that “FEAR is the opposite of love, not hate or indifference.” I don’t even know what year that was, let alone the date!
Hi Sharon–wow I love the insight that hit you about fear–the opposite of love. Great lesson for us all to remember and think about day to day. Not all moments have that snapshot effect, but some seem to–who knows the mysteries of memory?
You provided me with one of my spiritual awakenings when you taught /coached me how to write some painful childhood stories that released emotions that I hadn’t know held me in fear. A gift that brought me closer to my mother.
Amy–thank you! I love that you took your happy moments and harder ones and wove a wonderful memoir–and I know your mother loved being part of your book tour! Bless her and you!
A lovely way of decribing your epiphany. Thanks, Linda. I think mine came in flashes and jolts over the years. Sometimes I had to be shoved into realizations. For Sharon L. – Love is Letting Go of Fear …
Hi Colleen, Yes we get these special flashes as a gift, but most of our development is step by –at times–grudging step. The flashes are fun though!
Beautiful description and inspired idea to celebrate your “turning point” moment. I took had a mystical moment on campus. I was in Austin, TX, walking by myself. My mother had been asking me about where I was going to church. I wasn’t going anywhere regularly. I wasn’t thinking about church when I was walking. I was thinking about what a beautiful fall day it was. Sun was shining through the live oak trees, and I was enjoying the sense of being tautly strung, resonating to the energy field around me. All of a sudden I felt like a burning bush. I knew, through and through, that God loved me. My first thought: “Don’t worry about me, Mother. I’m in good hands.”
Hi Shirley, thank you for sharing your special moment–beautiful and interesting how we “know” the meaning and the significance of the moment at the time.
What a beautiful post, Linda Joy. It really speaks to the primacy of solitude in the ‘hearing ourselves’ and what we really want/think. For me, a turning point was when a fellow writer/artist insisted that, if I called myself a writer, that I TYPE my work! Duh! : ) Big difference. I love how you encourage your students to identify the string of moments that brought them to be ‘themselves.’ Great work, xo
Thanks Joan, I love helping people get into the turning points, as they always discover so much!
Hi Linda Joy, Your story reminded me of a time when I was living in Des Moines. I loved the snow, and I especially loved walking my dog late at night in the snow. I felt safe and blanketed, and there were no sounds except the swishing of my clothes as I walked. I loved looking at the street lights surrounding the park at the snow flakes and how there would be rainbows around them as they fell. I would say for me each one of these walks were spiritual because I was one with the Universe. Lovely story like all of your stories that always stimulate me to write. Thank you! Helen
Hi Helen, Thank you for sharing your story–you know what those special silent white moments are like! Keep writing!
Such a beautiful reflection of your defining moment!
I have had a few moments of transformation, as I”m sure we’ve all had, but one that stands out bolder than all the others was the day I brought my son home. At thirty-eight and a first time Mom, I had endured a lifetime of unhealthy relationships with men. Always looking for someone to “rescue me” or fill the emptiness I felt burdened with, I always attracted unhealthy men and unhealthy relationships, including my son’s father.
The moment I brought my son home, though, I knew right then and there, it would never happen again.
I look forward to reading more of your wisdom and insight!