The Way of Connection

The day was bright, the windows sending in a cool breeze as I pulled a rune stone. The rune would serve as a companion on this busy day, one filled with chores I required of myself before welcoming company. In my memory’s echo chamber, my grandmothers whispered of dust rags and buckets of warm water with bulbous sponges floating inside and pointed out an empty vase on the table needing flowers. They spoke of coffee mugs and cloth napkins and a plate for fresh-baked cookies. They nodded when I bent to my knees and scrubbed the wood-carved base of the marble table-top, and grinned when I cleaned the mirrors until no streaks remained. That’s our girl, they gloated.

My father’s death had recharged my need for connection to a past beyond my own remaining mortality. I wanted to find threads, fibers, tendrils of truth from symbols that existed far before I or my father or his mother before him had any sense of ourselves or our placement in DNA’s spiraling. With Scandinavian ancestors in each of my great-grandparent’s lines, I hoped that studying the runes would further my relationship with the long-dead who had collectively imprinted themselves upon me in one way or another.

The “mannaz” symbol represents The Self.

In his contemporary interpretation of the “mannaz” rune, Ralph Blum suggests that “[t]he starting point is the self. . . . Strive to live the ordinary life in a non-ordinary way. Remember at all times what is coming to be and passing away, and focus on that which abides.” These prismatic observations ping thoughts of the audio book to which I was currently listening — A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. The story’s conscious awareness extends from Japan to a Canadian island to the sunny Silicon Valley. Expressions of age, experience, and inner dialogue hold narrative power. Future and past warble as artifacts glide freely as crows across currents of time and place. As characters relate to each other, mystery flowers and relationships take shape. The story is not for the faint of heart. Ozeki’s young protagonist can so realistically and caustically describe abuse and cruelty that I had to pause at some points and wonder if I could bear one more sentence. Young Nao’s is not the only voice who speaks of unspeakable things. But a story of this consequence requires the unpleasant and disagreeable, as all the best stories do. Ozeki invites the reader to become a fellow traveler, to feel the shifts of time and to sense the imbalances of spirit and to be knocked around by circumstance while staying grounded by every single word.

I saved the flower arranging and cookie dough until the end in the long line of tasks that made me feel more confident of the host within. In tandem, my beloved repainted a scarred threshold and took down the cobwebs from around the outside door facings, reporting to me that she had gently re-situated three found spiders in the process. That’s my girl, I gloated.

Just what do my cleaning day and the rune draw and Ozeki’s novel have in common? If I get quiet enough, maybe I can sum it up in a sentence. When I give attention, I get connection. The day’s trinity of offerings reminded me to contact the present, the “thing that stays,” no matter how many spiders live in the corners or how much or little I feel myself to be or which story finds its way into my heart.

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