"There are years that ask questions
and years that answer them."
(Zora Neale Hurston, anthropologist)
I am pleased with my longevity. I look back and very much like the path of my life. It is mine, first and finally, and is all gathered into me. I am in the years now that answer questions. Or at least are at peace with them.
When I was in Korea in 1995 I found myself in dense drizzly fog on a prayer mountain. A prayer mountain is a mountain on which a path has been carved, and in this case, large life-like statues placed among the bushes and trees. A pilgrim's journey up the mountain might take an hour if walked briskly, slowing to a steep climb at spots, and is conducive to becoming a prayer journey simply by the visceral images and terrain- if one chooses to be attentive.
At one twist in the path I come upon a roughly hewn stairway carved into the hillside, leading up to a small natural wound in the side of rock. I climb the stairs and find myself by a small dark cave, a huge rock taking up most of the inner space. I notice, back in the shadows and thrown onto the rock in passionate pose, a life size form of Christ, agonizing in prayer. Rain starts to pour and I crouch inside the edge of the cave as darkness deepens and a chill creeps up my body.
I huddle, watching. A green and brown military plane passes low. The fog roils. Water splashes onto the muddy square landing at the top of the staircase. My senses complain. This seems to be my life. So many times trapped and unsure when to go. War and rain and fog and darkness.
Suddenly I become aware of the image behind me. Typical of me to need to get past myself before I can begin to 'see'. I realize that Jesus is deeper in my dark, praying ... for me. For me. A wave of peace passes over me.
I go back the next day and climb those stairs again. There are forty of them I realize. I have just passed my fortieth birthday. I have so many questions about my life. Questions and tears. Wondering. Feeling. But on each stair I stop and simply listen to my life in each year represented - my first, my second, my third... my twenty-second...and so on. I find something worth hearing in every year (of course some was from family lore.) Not answers. Just life.
That was forty - and more than a decade has passed. If I could find such a stairway again I would climb it differently. Maybe bound up. Maybe go half way up and sit there watching. If it rains (as it often does there) go out in the rain and feel it fall.
Every year is different. Every year holds a mystery. Some years ask questions. Some years answer them. We need to live through every one.