I could smell the coming of a new millennium on that autumn morning. I stepped outside the Albany hotel where I had been conferencing with my colleagues. Suitcases and supplies were packed for a trip back to Buffalo. My colleagues drove West on the New York State Thruway, which was the logical thing to do. A different magnetism pulled at my spirit in September 1999, and I drove East, crossing from New York State over the Hudson River and into the Berkshire mountains.

It was ridiculous, really. I laughed at my own peculiarity. It was a Sunday and I had a full client caseload back home the next day. I could have been home by afternoon, unpacked, watching some television, relaxing. Instead, I felt an adventure brewing. Given a choice between what is logical and what draws my heart, though, my heart generally wins. And so it was that my Jeep and I went East while my rational friends headed back West for home.

I wasn’t sure what I was heading toward, but something was undeniably pulling me. All the town names were strangely familiar, mystery and nostalgia drawing me in. My father had been raised here 70 years ago, in an orphanage. A welfare home, as they were referred to in post depression area history. He didn’t speak of this place much, but we had come here in search of his birth documents when he crossed over into retirement age a few years earlier. There was more unknown than known about his early life. I knew that he may have had siblings according to the baptismal records we had found, and I wondered sometimes if I had long-lost family in this area of the country. It seemed ridiculous to be so close, but not to visit. I was compelled to visit, actually, for reasons that did not find words. These were my thoughts as I drove and wondered exactly what I was hoping to find.

I stopped first at a Gem Show at a local school. The gymnasium was filled with gems and jewelry and other such treasures. I bought some small pieces of amethyst and some polished green moss agate. I tucked these in my pocket, craving the clarity of mind, psychic strength, and protection that they offered for the day’s adventures. I left the gym, returned to my vehicle, and drove. My car pulled into a small, rural cemetary, built on a hill. I parked and walked. Autumn breezes blew my hair, and it seemed as if I could hear whispers in the old trees longing to tell tales of those buried by their roots. I looked for familiar names, but probably wouldn’t have recognized any then, even if I could recall them now. It was good to be there, as odd as it seemed. I moved toward a pile of brush that I soon realized were very old tomb stones heaped with leaves that had blown over them. I decided to clean and care for the stones. I carried away the leaves, then brushed the dirt and dust from the marble surfaces. They were worn and the names and years were difficult to read, but what I could read suggested they were the grave markers of a young mother and three young children. I sat beneath a tree, by their resting place. I surrounded them with light and love. I faintly smelled lavendar and remembered the amethyst in my pocket. I placed a piece on the stone of the young woman. Calm in my spirit, I went back to my car.

My travels took me next to a consignment store where I rummaged through the sweaters and found one I liked that was charcoal gray. It was getting chilly, so I made my purchase and wore it out of the store. I wondered, at that moment, if it belonged to someone in my family tree. The thought gave me comfort. I kept this thought close in a local diner as I wondered if my adventure was complete. Something told me it was not.

I drove next toward a state park, and found a quiet place to sketch. I allowed my lines to flow, the day sinking in to the paper as it took hold in my soul. The sun was sinking when I realized I was six hours from home. As strong as the magnetism was that drew me, I felt released. I walked back to my Jeep, hopped in, and finally headed West.

I drove into dusk, sunset, darkness. The night was clear and my spirit felt satiated by a day that I did not fully understand. Only later would some of it begin to take shape, for context to emerge as life continued to open new mysteries. On that day I was simply drawn, magnetically, to a place of unknown meaning in my life.

As I drove the home stretch of the Thruway between Batavia and Buffalo, I was accompanied by Hale-Bopp until I reached my destination. It was awe inspiring. It is hard to imagine a more powerful end to a day rich in both meaning and mystery than being companioned by a comet.

These images, like a dream, remain with me. They were a doorway through which I would…and do…move many times, each magnetic circle drawing me closer to understanding and knowing more deeply why I was drawn to that place, at that time. I am still circling, still learning.

Still finding small points of light.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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