a big, deep, generous love

A few months later I was sitting on the opposite side of the continent, far out on the long rocky breakwater in Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts, under a similarly pink-slashed sunset, talking to the sea and the sky. Some people would call this praying, and I might one day, too, so I began, as I believe all prayers should, with gratitude. Thank you for the sunset, thank you for my friends, thank you for the pain that is gone from my back. Thank you, that is, both for the wake-up call of pain, and for its subsequent relief.

I watched the tide rush out under the giant slabs of granite beneath me.

“Okay,” I said, out loud this time, which felt both ridiculous and better. “I think I am finally ready for you to send me a big, deep, generous love.” I’ll admit I didn’t know who I was praying to. Something that might be called Ocean and might be called God, and that manifested itself to me occasionally as cupped hands.

“But if you don’t think I am ready for big love,” I continued, “then maybe just a little romance to keep the conversation going.” A great blue heron landed in the reeds nearby. “And if I’m not even ready for that, maybe just a sign that I’m on the right path.”

Satisfied with my prayer, I trained my eyes on the heron. A dapper little man was approaching on the jetty, wearing short shorts in psychedelic colors and a yellow shirt, walking a Westie, who was wearing a sweater, even though the day was quite warm. He said, “Lovely place to sit and think, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said, “it surely is.”

He never broke stride, but grinned as he passed. “You are a good person,” he said. “It’s all going to be okay.”

I watched him recede along the horizon, the tops of the big rocks turning green and gold and purple in the encroaching twilight. “Thanks,” I told the thing that is part God and part Ocean. “That was just what I had in mind.”

—Pam Houston, from her essay “The Cupped Hands”


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