Angel Father

He has been her guardian since beginning-less time.  He has manifested in many forms, but always he is powerful, white, full of light.  He is a warrior on a steed, a father with gentle hands, a weeping willow that protects her from rain, a bolt of lightening that separates her from her detractors.  He is the God, the Father, the Teacher, the Guru.

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She is a young girl, five or six years old at most.  She is playing with her tow-haired cousin in the old foyer of their grandmother’s house.  They are stacking bricks, making songs, building castles in their minds.  The rest of the family is deep in the back of the house, trimming the tree, celebrating Christmas.  Here, in the small, sunken foyer, a dim light burns overhead, and a candle flickers on an old oak table.  Miles of darkness separate them from the holiday festivities, dark corridors and rooms with closed doors.  These small children are content to play on the cold stone floor, bickering occasionally, but easily making up.  Make-believe is a wonderful world to live in.

Suddenly a gust of wind pushes the heavy front door open, and he is standing there.  Flurries of snow blow in past his formidable frame, dusting the floor with a carpet of white.  The children look up, awe in their eyes.  He is wearing thick black boots, the tips reflecting the light of the foyer.  His powerful chest heaves in and out, covered by a cascading white beard.  He is looking directly at her, his dark eyes piercing, and she freezes on the floor, afraid of his power, but certain of her safety in his presence.  He doesn’t say a word, just looks into her eyes with a searching intensity that pins her to the ground, silences all thoughts from her mind. 

Later, when she can find the words to describe this encounter, she will say that it was as though he was looking deep into her soul, pushing and prodding the corners of her psyche, scanning the experiences of her short but remarkable life.  Children of her power are often tested young, and he has come to see that she is still strong and sound in her body and mind.  His eyes take everything in, her fair hair, her slim frame, her physical and mental condition.  After a long moment during which she doesn’t move and hardly breathes, he seems to be satisfied.  He gives a short nod, and without a word, turns and disappears into the snowy night.  On the eve of Christ’s birth, he is like Father Christmas, and she will forever associate him with wintry snows, otherworldly powers, and unspoken gifts of compassion. 

His visit heals something that was broken in her soul, and though she is too young to realize it, she begins to move through life with a new lightness and faith.  Even children with no named god can have faith, though to them it is never a word- it is an energy that propels them through difficult situations, a buoyancy that keeps their dreams colorful and their sights held high.  Her guardian’s visit imbues her with faith, electrifies her blood, and renews her life force.  She never forgets the encounter.

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Twenty years later, she is lounging in a small café.  Colorful pillows litter the floors, and silk handbags hang from the walls, expensive trinkets on offer for the many affluent customers.  She enjoys a cup of cardamom tea, then another.  Unusual music plays from the small speakers, trendy but somehow amusing.  When she stands up to go, an image on the wall catches her eye.  She steps closer to have a better look and gasps. 

On a small piece of torn canvas, someone has painted a picture.  It is of an old man with long white hair, and a white beard spilling down his chest.  His face is darkened, obscured by the light that pours in from behind him, illuminating his shoulders and glinting off the sides of his high cheekbones and deep-set eyes.  She is riveted, unable to move from her spot on the floor.  She continues to stare at the painting, the white smoke rising up from the man’s lap, the mystical quality of his presence. 

When the shop owner appears from the back room, she asks, “Who is this?  Where did you get this painting?”  The owner is a kind man with black hair and dark eyes, and he says, “I don’t know who this is.  A young man passing through town gave it to me.”

She breathes in a sigh of awe and reverence, and looks back at the figure in the painting.  It is holy but simple, a god painted on a torn piece of cloth.  But it is unmistakably him, her Guru, her Protector, and she has found him again, or he has found her, in this obscure corner of the world, on a wall in a café.

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