There is a walking meditation I do almost everyday; it begins a block or two into my morning walk. My footsteps keep time with the rhythm of the words as I start with, “Bless this day for me and mine, Great Spirit, Radiant Light of The Universe, Mother of us all, Father of us all, grant me grace.”
There are many parts of this meditation, but the central focus is gratitude—giving thanks for the many, many blessings I have in my life; family, friends, the companionship of animals, health. The teachers and guides, past, present and future who help and have helped me navigate the sometimes rocky shores; without their help, I surely would have lost my way time and time again. Their lessons come in many forms, from hand holding over the long voyage of a big project to simply handing me a book and saying, “Here, read this.”
One such book suggested to me recently was Frank Cottrell Boyce’s THE UNFORGOTTEN COAT, a story not only sweetly charming and highly enjoyable, but thought provoking and meaningful. Two brothers from Mongolia dropped into the foreign world of Liverpool assign Julie, the narrator in Year Six, as their official Good Guide, to show them around their New World and to protect them from the demon they believe is trying to make them vanish. The concept of a Good Guide struck me as an excellent one and set me to thinking in detail about all of the Good Guides I have had in my life; Bishop John who led our questing youth group on numerous backpack trips in the Cascade Mountains when I was a teenager, Carolee Davis who folded me into her life and guided me with her friendship, the amazing mentors at Vermont College who helped me start down the path to being the writer I continually strive to be, the incredible writers in my writing community who teach me patience, courage and tenacity every day, who remind me I am a writer, who help keep me from vanishing. For it’s easy to feel yourself vanishing when you lose faith in or forget who you are.
The story also made me think about my own opportunities to be a Good Guide, as teacher, parent, friend. I have very big shoes to fill and I’m not sure I can ever completely live up to the excellent guidance I have been blessed with, but it feels like it’s a good goal to start out the New Year. We can all be Good Guides, whether it be taking the time to listen to a neighbor’s worries, giving directions to a lost tourist or asking a student the right questions that will help her discover the truths in her own story.
And as Julie learns in THE UNFORGOTTEN COAT, being a Good Guide can change the way you see your own familiar world, it can give you a new appreciation for what you take for granted.
So, Happy New Year from one aspiring Good Guide to all of you who have inspired me.