American Shorts
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American Shorts


Reflections on Rebirth

From Toluca to Mirror Lake

Life has highs and lows. What concerns most people is the in-between, but not me. It’s the in-between of birth-to-death, or death-to-rebirth, and I can talk about both of those just fine, but what I want to talk about is that moment at the bottom.

That’s when the real rebirth happens.

I’m not going to say that I saw the Lord as a person, someone spotted down the grocery store aisle, or across the street waiting for a bus. I’m not going to tell you I had some vision. What I actually had was just a feeling. The details of the situation are not really important, but I was in a roadhouse bar just outside of Toluca, Mexico, and I was literally on the floor. I won’t get any more specific than that, but drugs were involved. They do tend to weigh one down until the face meets the mother earth.

It just seems silly to say it, but the moment at first was not unlike many other such moments I’d had, except that, were it a dime spun on a table, it would not have stopped spinning. Usually you land on your head or your tail and either way you are subject to gravity. But in this case, imagine that the thing keeps spinning, and not only that, begins to lift up off the table slowly, hanging in the air. There was certainly a feeling of death, of doom, that was coming over me as I lay there, but at the same time, there was something new. And the new thing was not anything I’d ever known. The new thing was a new feeling. It sounds dumb to say it, but we take it for granted that as we grow up from kids, we start running through the same set of standard feelings over and over and after awhile in our adulthood they are all like old friends and enemies — or maybe you call it family. I know I do. But anyway, at that point, when some new person arrives, it’s a spectacular thing, like seeing a movie star for the first time ever, someone who has every right to be a star across the globe, and yet you’d never seen them before, and here they are, a spectacle.

It was like that. I don’t want to describe any kind of a light dawning on me or any of that crap, although my mind has painted that into my memory, just because it’s a human thing to do. In reality, there was nothing at all like that. It was entirely a sensation of the physical sort, nothing visual or anything else. It wasn’t even that sensual, I should say, so scratch that about the physical. It was sentimental, but not sensual.

It’s this new feeling that I can only attribute to one person, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I can only imagine that he lifted me up in that moment, and he never let go. And I do believe that he walked me right through the Valley of Death. I do believe that in that moment, and for some time after it, my soul was for all practical purposes in purgatory, and my body was simply a dead vessel. He saw me to the other side, and only then was I again among the living.

I don’t want to get into specifics of that time period. The struggle, the groups, the rooms, the agonies, the doubt and fear. The important thing is that I never once let go of his hand during that time.

At a place called Mirror Lake, up in Yosemite — which if there is any such thing as God’s country that is it — it was at that place was where I broke through to the other side.

I had just run across a mountain lion, an actual Big Cat, facing me down on the trail, and I’d done everything they tell you: make yourself big, flail the arms, shout at it. I did not run. I was terrified, I admit, but in a functional, practical way. Not like I would have been while I was on the drugs. I stood my ground, and I didn’t feel any physical fear, just a serious sense that I was in danger. I waited. Then I moved to the side, off the trail, and the cat warily moved off the trail in the opposite direction, and we faced off like that keeping our distance from each other, until I was on a high outcropping of rock and the cat was near a stand of small evergreens. And like that, he took off, and I went forward, and when I got to Mirror Lake and saw it reflecting the granite peaks, I thought: That was it, the last test. I’m here.

I don’t have any advice, don’t consider myself some kind of sage or preacher. This is just how it is, and I wanted to declare it so. Like those big rocks reflected in that modest water, up there in God’s creation, that’s how it looks. I just want people to know that.



Meditations on American distance, longing, and myth: short fiction, essays, and forms in-between.

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