Perhaps this happens to you, too. You are going about whatever you are going about doing, when suddenly the image of a very particular person, place, or moment pops into your mind. The person, place, or moment may or may not be of deep emotional significance to you–and the image of the person or place might vanish rapidly, unless you pause and attend to it.
This happens often to me, usually when I am alone and quietly doing something, or when I am near sleep. Suddenly I’ll see the place I would turn off the main road north of L’Anse, Michigan, to get to piano lessons or to see my friend Kathy–both some 10-15 miles away from my home, on rural roads going up and down through near the forested Huron Mountains. Or I’ll suddenly see the face of a classmate to whom I’d never been close, nor thought of for many years. Or I’ll suddenly remember getting out of the car with my old girlfriend Carolyn, after she parked near an alley a couple of blocks from a restaurant to which we’d be going in Old Irving Park, a northwest neighborhood in Chicago. I will find myself looking down that alley–perhaps I’d noticed it at the time, perhaps it had seemed less carefully manicured and peopled, more wild, than the main streets. Or I will suddenly find myself in a lonesome-feeling country cafe at a crossroads in the middle of the U.P., a place I stopped once for a piece of blueberry pie on my way to visit my grandparents, a fly or two buzzing about and the old men who hung out at the middle of the cafe in the late afternoon starting at me, a stranger in their midst.
I have found myself beginning to pray with the images of such random people, places, or moments. The prayer is brief, but it feels right somehow to offer one, as if the Spirit is winging a soul our way–or as if we ourselves are winged by the Spirit to a place.
Sometimes I feel invited to meditate on the frequent images. Some of the images that come often to me involve being in roads in places I once lived–often roads that are out of the way, or very little peopled. Perhaps there is significance in this–or perhaps attending to the patterns of arising images cultivates significance somehow–an understanding, a sense of direction.
Some of the most significant moments happen when we are daydreaming or surprised by a memory – so told me, though not quite in those words, Sr. Irene Nowell. I really love the way you reflect upon the roads and faces that wallpaper your interior house Amy.
I have one image which comes back to me at odd times and strangely not always when I think it should. When I was 12 my family was living in France and we went to discover Brittany, the Celtic part of France, during Holy Week. My dad got us up out of our hotel beds an hour before sunrise so that we could walk out to a 1,000 year old Church for Easter Sunrise Mass. Waiting in the dark, deeply alert to all sounds, is the image that comes to me. Often, it occurs when I’m not focused! When I become aware of it I have to reevaluate everything because somehow the Resurrection story probably have something to do with it.
So often it does seem we are in the dark before resurrection!
I like also your image of interior wallpaper. It invites wondering what lies behind the wallpaper, “behind” those remembered images . . . though I suppose we could wonder what lies beyond the wall as well! Indeed, those images containing memories are always both within and without the boundaries of our individual selves. Perhaps that’s why it feels right to pray around them. Our inner lives are always bound up with the lives of other past and present (and future?), and also with landscapes, places, the features of the environment that make all our lives possible on this little planet. We cannot think of God without thinking of a world.
I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in receiving such small prayer “seizures.” Sometimes I think that one of the most important pieces of my life is being (at times) available and willing to respond to those images or brief encounters. One of the joys of praying OUR Father… for me is finding opportunities to expand my own awareness of “the communion of saints” and the human family. Sometimes it may be a trucker driving in the opposite direction on the highway. Another time it might be a deceased friend or an acquaintance from many years ago. It might simply be a newspaper article. I find that it is less important for me to hold on to the memory or relationship in such a moment than to simply offer that person–or memory, or moment–to God, giving thanks for including me in the mix of relationship or experience.