"God is using Goodwill to give me things," I tell my therapist.
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This is a post about a strand of pearls, a visit from an angel and a wink from a saint. This is a post about magic and pleasure and the treasure that is everywhere, hiding inside and under everything. It’s also about thrift shopping and letting myself have what I love.
I’ve been thrift shopping. A lot. Too much. Every day. I know that I am in some sort of process - a psycho-spiritual experiment in self-healing that could appear, when viewed from the outside, like an obsession, like an addiction. From the inside, I know what this is: it’s emergence.
Last week, at the bins, I found a pearl necklace. This looks real, I thought. What if it is? I rubbed the center pearl over my front teeth. I knew I should have sanitized it. Do real pearls feel like this? Chalky, rough. I knew I should ask first: Are you coated with germs? Are you dusty with neglect? Are you going to hurt me? I didn’t care. I was that hungry. That greedy for treasure. Also, I knew what this was: a gift from Love.
“God is using Goodwill to give me things,” I tell my therapist.
“Right now, yes,” she replies. “Maybe because it’s hard for you to receive at a higher level.”
”Um. Sure. I mean, kinda… but no. I think it’s some kind of training. The guides do this to me. Some kind of training in receiving… in how to absorb, how to take in, to fully experience immersion in… in grace.”
There is a moment of silence. Yes, I think. That’s it. The next moment, doubt rushes in. “I mean maybe, kind of. Maybe not. What do you think?”
Last Fall, I cleared the bookshelves and closets, making space. I let everything go, whittling my wardrobe down to a capsule collection, keeping only my favorite things. Now, I am filling space.
At Goodwill, I am discovering new (and ancient) things about myself. I had no idea I loved this bright, super-saturated shade of pink, this chalky purple. No idea until I saw it on these shoes.
Though I wear mostly black, grey, brown and white, everything I pull from the pile at the thrift store is covered in flowers. Roses and peonies, lilacs and lillies. Bowers of flowers, strewn over silk, wool, rayon and ‘pleather’, the vegan leather upon which images of Disney characters and, apparently, flowers, can be printed.
Baby clothes and scarves, soft cotton carry sacks from Vera Bradley and that pair of purple sandals. They were my size, made in England, and brand new. Perfect, except for one broken buckle. Easily repaired.
I find a cobbler. I wash and dry things. As I fold and stack the laundry, new possibilities of pattern and color present themselves. Last week, when I randomly placed a black and white striped bag beside a jumble floral Betsey Johnson backpack, I gasped, surprised. They were gorgeous together!
Such simple things. This matching. These colors. My open heart.
How much this means to me.
I seem to be collecting straw hats, wool blankets and there is this one enormous shawl that I can’t stop touching. It’s silver-grey, a sheer wool that is so lightly spun it looks like silk, no, it looks like cotton candy. I spend hours studying pattern and texture. Nubby raw silk between my fingers.
Mint green cashmere against my cheek.
My daughter, who sells vintage clothes for a living, suggested I purchase some clear plastic storage bags. They are stacked now, four high, outside the the glass doors of my office. I see them there when I am teaching, when I am writing, when I am speaking with clients. Maybe I will sell my treasure. Maybe I will keep it. For now, I am organizing it, watching it, learning from it. For now, I am loving it.
I don’t know what I’m looking for yet I always recognize it.
I don’t know (or care) how or why.
I let it stay a mystery.
I have stopped judging this. Stopped believing that this treasure hunting is the result of a misfiring of a brain chemical. Stopped wondering whether this behavior is a symptom of menopause, the blood no longer shed each month building up and boiling - demanding to be freed.
I no longer believe that this ‘shopping’ ( obsession) started with my discovery of this vast thrift store — other than the way that the enormity of what is available there has made me aware of the enormity of what’s available everywhere.
This started years ago.
This green vine of wild longing has been moving through my body for some time. Only this time, as it surges, I’m not stopping it.
I am letting it rise,
wild and hungry and urgent,
from the deep deep deep.
It will have what it wants.
And so will I.
This would have happened anywhere. This has been happening everywhere: in my backyard when this eye, scanning, in search of something beautiful, found it. A deer, staring back. A butterfly, circling. A brook trickling over stones.
It happened during quarantine, when I walked in the birch forest behind the farm, maskless and alone. And before that, visiting my daughter in Los Angeles when, on a beach, the West Coast sun moved on the water, orange-gold flashing and undulating over the sea. It was blinding. I had no sunglasses. It burned into me.
Light like that. Hunger like this. A treasure hunt. It’s been happening for so long now I don’t even feel it. Not often. Just glimpses: at Wegmans, in the produce aisle, holding a pomegranate, a dragonfruit (that pink!); and that time at Whole Foods, in the bathroom, looking into my own eyes when the scent of the lavender soap - such a small thing - brought tears to my eyes; and, then, yesterday when I took my car in to the grumpy mechanic and he welcomed me with a smile.
What is this magic? I wondered as I waited for my car on the scrub-dry stubble lawn outside the office.
Of course, I noticed.
How could I miss the way the birch trees shielded me, their leaves sussurating over my head. The way the deer keep moving closer, as if we are having a conversation.
Just after New Year’s, I sat, between my sister and my daughter, on the beach at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. The dogs and the people, liberated from enclosure, stumbled into the fresh air. A young family - three-year old in a princess tutu playing ‘giggle and run’ with the waves as her baby brother crawled to the water like a sea turtle. Their father, standing sentinel over the picnic blanket, their mother letting her baby get right to the edge of the bay before scooping him up, covered in sand and wailing in protest. She nuzzled his belly, feasting on his presence, as the sister and a puppy (probably theirs) ran tangle circles around her legs.
The treasure is everywhere.
Last month, on the eve of Easter and Passover, I led a circle of Soul Callers on an imaginal journey to a new land. Eyes closed, we crossed from a field of wildflowers into a welcoming forest. We walked, accompanied by a friend (a nature spirit, ancestor or celestial) to a clearing, an open space, which the land had opened just then. Stepping onto that land, we claimed it with our presence. Then, we listened as the land whispered mysteries and answered questions in its soil language of moss and depth, leaf mold and scent.
We stood, grounded and strong, and the land built a dwelling space around us. A floors beneath our feet and walls to divide the space into rooms for dining and sleeping, dancing and painting. There was space for everything we need.
And a fire burning on the hearth.
After class, I closed the Zoom window and saved the recording. Then, I went to the thrift store.
This was the day when I found the pearls. As I picked them up, questioning, Could these be real? a woman greeted me. “Mary!” she said, with a welcoming smile. “Hello, Mary.”
I smiled back. “I’m not M…” I began to explain but she’d walked on.
Bemused, I turned back to the bin. I tested the pearls against my teeth. Then, beneath a heap of Gap tees and Levis, I spied something gold. It was a prayer amulet - a small thing - no more than two inches high - in a red plastic case. I held it, this rectangular coin depicting, in bas-relief, the haloed saint, a charm against struggle, meant to be kept in a pocket or purse. St. Thèrese, Little Flower of Jesus. I read the writing on the case, Intercede for us.
Intercede for us
In my workshops, I suggest that when we interpret the signs we receive we, “Don’t search the internet. Search your heart. What does it mean to YOU?” That Wednesday of Holy Week, standing in the thrift store, I considered the three gifts I’d received. I considered, also, my response to them.
I find a strand of pearls. My response: Are they authentic?
I am re-named Mary. My response: a protest, “But I’m not… Her.”
I find a gold charm beneath a pile of rags. My response - Ohhhhh!
Finally, it hits me. Intercede for us.
I sense the shimmering presence of the angels, the gentle humor of the guides. A surge of alignment like a cosmic chiropractic adjustment straightens my spine. A gentle touch, at the back of my heart, coaxes me back to the land that has always known me, back to the path from which I’ve never strayed. Back to the truth of what I am: a bin diver, a pearl-finder, a sister to Grace.
They are interceding for me. Again. Guiding me back to the truth of who and what I am. I am Love, emerging. Love surging. Love rising inside the body of a woman who is (I know where I am) standing in a warehouse filled with treasure.
I climb into the car and head for home. On the way, feeling light and free, I open the windows and feel the spring air against my face. I smell the tang of exhaust fumes and close the windows again. I drive, pondering and philosophizing and planning dinner when suddenly, I feel my attention drawn upward to the left. There, a billboard soars over New Jersey Route 17. Passing it, I read a snippet of scripture. I am moving too fast to get all of it. I scribble what I remember into a notebook. : The Kingdom of heaven…. a search for pearls…
I hear the deep chuckle of the guides. Again and again, they repeat the same message. Here is the treasure, it’s all for you. Again and again, I must be reminded.
The treasure is everywhere. It’s in me, in you - in a Gap tee shirt, a sunset over the sea. A wool scarf that looks like spun sugar.
I drive. The angels laugh and the world holds out more pearls, offering, This is for you.
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