Heartsick and hunkered under a lap quilt, I light my prayer candle. The votive flickers within its chunky glass holder, a treasured, fire-in-ice gift from my lifelong friend. Yesterday, she was diagnosed with cancer.
Oh, friend. Oh shit. Merciful God, please intervene!
I yearn to help. And I want to bolt, escape to the woods, outrun heartbreak.
Beyond my window Indian Summer burnishes the aspen’s heart-shaped leaves to quavering gold.
Hold on. Those movements exceed a passing breeze. Branches thrash.
Camera in hand, I edge onto our deck: grunts … rustles … CRACK! — massive jaws are tearing off limbs.
I inch nearer. A dark, unblinking eye slues in its socket, meeting mine. Abashed, I shift my gaze. Behold, 800 swayback pounds of fur quixotically arranged atop legs like stilts: a moose.
AND her twins.
I study their commandeered buffet — this time, the crab apple.
Does the cow scent human? Have her calves ever seen one?
Stilling breath / bones / muscles … I try to communicate: No threat here and No greens for me today, thanks. After all, a mature moose weighs as much as a car, can charge at 35 miles per hour, and possesses front hooves designed to lash out in any direction.
So, I stay put, snapping breathless photos.
Then … simply watch, rapt. Only God could imagine into bone / joint / sinew-and-hide these stoic, browsing eccentrics. How effortlessly they radiate wildness.
Moose are focused. Adept. Insouciantly unafraid.
Moose: literally, “Eater of Twigs.” De-nuder of trees. And these three are thorough. The ornamentals will soon be whittled to nubs!
Stamping my feet, I shout. Flail. Make noises, mostly unintelligible.
It’s a lot like praying for someone with cancer.
Are such cries disrespectful? Do they communicate? Are they vacant gestures against a disease all-consuming in its hunger?
I mutter prayers anyway, writes author Brian Doyle.
Did they have any weight as they flew?
I don’t know.
But I believe with all my heart that they mattered because I was moved to make them. … believe that the impulse to pray is the prayer, and that the words we use are only envelopes in which to mail pain and joy …
It’s the urge that matters — the sudden Save us that rises against horror, the silent Thank you for joy.
Even the wrenched-out gutterals — ?!#%?&?! — all that is ornamental pared back to the raw shoot.
So, I pray for my friend with cancer. And for others I know, also gravely afflicted with different versions.
I pray for all of us. That we remain focused. Adept in grace. Insouciantly unafraid.
What’s staring you down, eyeball-to-eyeball? I’d gladly add my prayers to yours.
Brian Doyle, Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies
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