by Neshamah Emi Miller
I dedicate this story to my Friend, Mariam Baker, with gratitude for her love, her dedication and guidance.
Fresh from India and the amazing Urs celebrations at the Dargah of Hazrat Inayat Kahn and the journey to Pakistan -- journeys which filled me with an abundance of amazing gifts, which, even though they would like to be shared, can never be experienced through the written word -- yet when the time came to 'return' to the every-day world, and it's reality, one landed with a great smack in the squeaky clean waters of modern-day West Palm Beach, Florida. Only those who have directly experienced both of these streams of consciousness will understand this astonishing Reality, which assaulted all levels of awareness. One felt as if she were alone, awake in a dream world, a world in which all others were sharing the same dream, a dream which they believed she also shared and was experiencing, and yet they had no idea that she was experiencing two Realities, two living streams at the same time: The pristine lawns, the streets perfectly paved, with absolutely not one shred of litter, the palm trees, blowing their clean arms, in the softest of breezes, the calm, soft air, the fluffy white clouds, the lack of traffic on the streets, the polished cars, the lack of any animals, except the occasional manicured poodles, with pink ribbons in their hair, and polished toenails. All of this and yet the mureed, still wearing the garb of an Indian woman, existed with the scents, sights and sounds -- of an historic land -- and a vision filled Reality -- Breathing the breath of India, tasting and living the lives of the Saints of Pakistan -- one walked the early morning streets in Holy communion -- with the Divine One-s, deep in practices, and lived through the days moving between the worlds.
Altogether, one spent three weeks in this state of divided being, unwilling to land here -- though eating in delicatessens, one slowly shed the outward garb -- in order to dine in dressy clothing, with waiters serving polished dishes in modified tuxedos.
Mother Turtle Appears
On the last full day of this portion of the journey back to modern life, one was driving her 86-year-old father to a doctor appointment. Along the route, on a hot, sun-filled palm laced road, one spied a very large turtle, locked in a battle for survival, on the left side of the road. The turtle was trying, in vein, to lift herself off of the dangerous highway, onto and over a white, concrete curb. She was repeatedly flapping her right leg up as high as it would go, and her small leg was not long enough to get the job done. On this particular day, the Florida sun shone strong, and the blacktop must have been hot enough to be burning her body and her tender feet. It was easy to see that she did not have the ability make it. If she continued in this direction, she would die of the heat, and if she turned around, a fast moving car would likely hit her. Yet, she continued to try, with all her might, her neck stretched out to it’s max to try to see over what was, to her view, a large, white, impenetrable wall.
As her struggle was going on in her world, coming back into my own world, I was aware that my father, whose eyesight is failing, had no knowledge of the trial at hand for the turtle. We were running late for his visit with the doctor, and the pressure of time was with us. Yet, I found that I could not leave her there, suffering in her steadfast struggle to survive. Turning the car around, mid road, I explained to my father what was going on, and told him I would just be a minute, and that I would be lifting the turtle up to safety on the grass. And, so, I stopped the car, rushed out and picked her up and walked her about halfway across a very large, grassy area. Placing her safely away from the traffic, in the direction she had chosen to travel, I hurried back to my dad.
As I turned the car around to continue on my way, I could not help but look into the rear view mirror, to see how my turtle friend was faring. There she was, head stretched out to the fullest, eyes to the front, marching with full confidence, straight ahead. Yet, now, from my new vantage point, I could clearly see where she was headed: ‘Oh, no’, I thought, ‘She is walking as bravely as she can, but she is headed directly into another parking lot, and beyond that there is no water at all, only more rows of buildings and other paved lots filled with cars!’ I knew at one glance that she would certainly not survive her journey, with the hazards of traffic, and the heat of the noonday sun.
This was a real dilemma. We were late, and had our own purpose, and yet I could not put down the task of helping my turtle friend. So, I pulled the car to the side of the road and told my father that I felt I would not be able to live with myself, if I did not help her find her Way to clear water! Imagine, with me for just a moment, how this request would be a great task for my father – I knew about the constraints that existed between the natural world and his reality: the absolute cleanliness of the car, and the manicured lives, in which anything that was uncontrolled by humans was scary, and anything that was dirty was shunned. Yet, I forged ahead saying that I would need to put the turtle in the car, in order to take her to a near-by large body of water, that my dad and I had passed along our route. To my surprise, my dad thought for a few moments and then said, “OK, but you are going to have to put her in the trunk!” This acceptance of both the extra time and placing a living turtle anywhere in the car was a very big concession.
I turned the car quickly around again, and headed off to help her. As I stopped, a car that was on the road behind me began to honk wildly. I did not care. I got out, and opened the trunk. Making it ready for my honored guest, I received verbal assaults from the irate driver as he passed us by. Heading toward her, I saw an amazing sight that instantly opened my heart completely: She had found a tiny little path amidst the grasses, and with her eyes facing directly in front of her she was walking, completely committed to her path, yet totally unaware that it was leading her nowhere. I spoke to her, and she let me pick her up, and retreated into her shell. Placing her into the hot, dark trunk, I told her it was only for a short time, and that she would be happy and safe -- very soon!
We quickly arrived at the hill that led down to the shores of the sparkling body of water where I was to place her. I happily noticed the many water birds, tall grasses and small fish that inhabited the blue lake, that merged into the larger system of man-made water-ways from which she must have wandered. Gathering her from inside the trunk, she remained quiet in the stillness deep within her shell. I carefully and lovingly carried her and placed her down very close to the water’s edge.
Feeling my task accomplished, I turned to leave, as we were now very late for my dad’s appointment. Yet, immediately, as I turned, I felt the inner presence of the “Knowing One”, telling me that my work was not yet complete: I must turn around and watch to see that she made it safely into the water. It was at this moment that I fully realized that the whole story of my turtle friend, from the beginning to this moment, was a Teaching Lesson from the Inner One-s. Yielding to the Voice of Guidance, I turned back to see her once more. Immediately, I watched her as she came out of her shell. She looked slowly first to the left and then to the right, as her eyes adjusted to the light. She saw the clear water, and wondered for a moment how she had come to be in this place. She turned and looked in my direction, and our eyes met, and we knew one another. Then she turned toward the water, and walked straight ahead, slipping into the cool depths.
In those moments, I felt her amazement, her palpable relief, to find herself at the small lake. She could not have known that she had been found, by a Friend, who had the eyes to see her problems, who had both the ability -- and the willingness -- to Serve her on her journey. Yet, this Friend, when I had been told to stop and to look, to be sure the turtle was safe, in that instant, this Friend was allowed to see. One’s breath caught in gratitude, and tears gathered in my eyes, at the ‘knowingness’ of the Path. For one was shown, through Serving the sweet mother Turtle, the Gift of the Guide: We are all Servants of the nearest Friend. We are all able to Serve as far as our Heart Eyes can see, as wide as our Heart Ears can hear, and will listen. In that clear moment of thank-full-ness, one-s gratitude for her own Teacher’s Eyes and Heart -- was opened wide.