THE PRAYER OF ALL LIFE
THE PRAYER OF ALL LIFE, illustration by Carlos Uribe
Back in the tiny churchyard cottage, Abby’s mind was flooded with too many questions to think clearly. She needed someone to talk to. Suddenly she felt very alone and scared, practically imprisoned in the churchyard, isolated from her friends. She began to pace around the room, disturbed by a feeling that she was missing something. With a sudden inspiration she remembered the envelope from the grocery bag brought by Geraldine, and her hand flew to her pocket. There it was, plain and small and thin, with her name written boldly on the front in pencil. She tore it open and discovered a note from Phoebe. Feeling her heart pounding, she read:
Abby -- I miss you already! I’d like to give you time to get settled, but things have come up that we should talk about right away. As you know, Tuck is not allowing us in the churchyard, and you will be watched and followed wherever you go. The men from that mob last night are likely to be pretty nervous about the outcome of all this. I’m sure George wants to see you, but I think it’s too risky for him. But I will come to the back door of the churchyard, tonight at 1AM. I’ll continue to send notes through Geraldine, who is very cooperative.
With Love and Hope,
“Ah!” thought Abby with relief. “That helps. But why does Phoebe need to see me so badly? And why is it especially dangerous for George?” She began to pace around the tiny cottage like a caged animal. “And where is Reverend Tuck?” she wondered. “This Church Council meeting seems to be going on for a long time.”
Abby recalled everything she knew about the Church Council. The picture that came to mind was not reassuring. The Council would be voting, maybe at that very moment, on whether or not to allow her to be the church gardener and live in the cottage rent-free. She had moved heaven and earth to achieve this change, and was already planning the gardens and orchards she would plant, a dazzling array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, all from Wendy’s seeds and cuttings.
“My seeds! Oh my God, I don’t have my seeds!” She remembered in a panic that her seeds were carefully hidden behind a decaying sheet rock wall on the second floor of the haunted house. Her guitar and whistles were back there too. And her bike was under the floorboards of the broken porch. Abby felt certain that the haunted house would be thoroughly searched sometime soon, if it had not happened already. Her seeds had been carefully chosen over years of planting in Wendy’s gardens. They were an irreplaceable treasure. Worrying frantically about the council meeting and her prized possessions, Abby could not sit still, and felt her heart race. The loss of her new home would leave her with nowhere to go. It was all more than she could bear.
“Help me! Help me!” In her thoughts she called out, looking for the voice of her inner friend, the green being from her vision.
Thumbing through her copy of Black Elk Speaks, she was reminded of a strange idea that had grown in her heart since childhood. Many times she had been moved to tears by the words near the end of the book, the part where Black Elk says, “And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth – you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”
And then Abby turned to his last words in the book, where Black Elk prays from a mountaintop, crying aloud:
“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds… In sorrow I am sending a feeble voice, O Six Powers of the World. Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!”
Each time Abby read these words, she thought of the urgent sadness in the eyes of the green being, her earth angel, and she imagined that Black Elk and the angel were the same being, that an angel had been born as Black Elk, and became an angel again when he died, a guardian of souls, and of all life. And his vision, his dream of helping the sacred tree to live – that dream was not dead, but was fought for by angels, and lived in the heart of humans. Wendy had taught Abby that this is the prayer of all life.
“Let it live! Let it live! Let it live!” came the voice, surging with fierce energy inside her.