Perhaps it is because this year I reached the age my mother was when she died. Perhaps it is the final acceptance that I am the biological end of my family line.
Or that I feel the orisa Yemanja close to me. Except for my annual participation in a Yemanja festival, I've not really experienced Yemanja the way I have the egun or Osun, for example. Yemanja, Mother of Fishes, the Mother.
I am reminded that in a time of dire need that the Virgin Mary herself visited me every morning, her blue and white robes flowing down to her feet. Her stern but soft presence reassuring me that I would be okay, that I would live through what I felt at the moment would kill me.
I would pray every morning, promising to follow the Path. Nothing specific. Just the Path: Love, Truth, Authenticity, Honesty, Integrity. I would remain open to the voice of the Creator, honor my ancestors, flow with the orisas. I would not walk away from the destiny I had chosen.
The Virgin answered my prayers by her presence every morning as I knelt at a make-shift shrine. She protected me. I have kept my promise. Over twenty years later, I find myself at the feet of the Virgin, Yemanja, again. Sometimes, I yearn for my grandmother's rosary, the noon-time novenas at the sound of the church bell. Even as a child, I sat with her when it began and we prayed the mysteries together, our voices harmonious as we said The Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary.
Perhaps this is the year to meditate on women, and women who watch over me because no matter how old I get, there will be times in my life when memories of my mother want their own space. There are years when I push them aside, but not this year.
Instead, I've dug out old photos, scanned them, looked at them. The one below is one of my favorites.
Always, I miss the smell and sound of the ocean.
Mommy and Me at Bathway Beach, Grenada, West Indies
Once, a photographer looked closely at this photo and remarked that a finger print was evident. He was certain it was not on the paper or the negative. He was at a loss for how or why the print was there.
I don't remember this day any longer. However, it is obvious that my mother is trying to introduce me to the ocean and I am slowly trusting her and the waves. I learned early in life that you can't trust everyone when you are in water. You can't trust the water to be anything other than what she is: flowing, making a way over, under, through anything and everything in her path.
Yet, looking at this photo I get the sense that I did not feel in danger and that neither my mother nor the water meant me harm. I would not know until later in my life that I as a young girl I had been living in the presence of Yemanja. The blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea covered me at least once a week in their warmth in my family's weekly journey to the beach to "bathe". Again, only later would I know that the foam and waves were a healing, a protection, I would need many years later.
The photograph. I decided the moment the photographer shared with me his confusion that there could only be one answer. God had put Her finger on and in our lives. No other explanation was necessary. There could be no other explanation.