Saturday, May 31, 2014

An Alchemical Key

I lost my keys yesterday.

And then I found them.

In between, I rode on a train for an hour - to my office (I work in an office now) in downtown Chicago.

I already had spent an hour on the train, traveling home from the aforementioned office.  I rode all the way to my car before I realized that I could not find my keys.

And I exaggerate.  The train ride is only 35 minutes or so.  It's the commute - from door to door - that takes about an hour.

As I went back to my office, and sat on the subway, I realized that all I could do was wait.  I looked through my purse 20 times at least, hoping to find them while I rode, but otherwise, all I could do was wait.

And pray.  I could pray, too.  It wasn't much of a prayer.  It was a combination of begging and yelling. (God, god, god, god... please let me find my keys... and why did you let me lose them? Hasn't it been a horrible enough time? Did you have to take my keys too?)

At one point I thought, that's it.  I can't do it anymore.  I'm done.  And then I thought, I am maybe walking a little too close to an edge, if losing my keys sends me over it.

And then I thought, maybe it's just a mood - a mood for this day, the anniversary of the day that Joan of Arc burned at the stake.  I try to remember the day every year.  She is a hero of mine.  She may have been a lawyer, fighting the uphill battle, if she'd been born today.  It's not a surprise that I should admire her, and try to remember her on days like when she was burned at the stake.

I'd even gone to a Catholic church for her that afternoon, near the courthouse in downtown Chicago.  There were many Franciscans milling about the Church.  I think she would have liked that.

So there I sat, hours later, terrified I'd lost my keys, begging God to let me find them, and losing it just a little.

Then I thought of something else I could do.  I could ask God for a sign (at least give me a stupid sign while I sit on this stupid train...)

I looked up for my sign.

Just then, a young girl, about 19, smiled at me.

I was shocked.  Nobody smiles on the train.  But she did.

I hope I smiled back.  I wondered if she had heard me talking to the security officer at my building (when I called to say I had lost my keys and I would need help getting into the office to look for them).  I wondered how pathetic I must have looked in my panic, that I caused her to smile some comfort in my direction.

It was a friendly smile though.  Maybe she was just being nice.  Maybe she was from somewhere else.

And then I saw her shirt.  "New Orleans," it said, across the front. You know, like Orleans, in France - where Joan of Arc died - and like New Orleans, where they have a statute in her honor.

I decided it was my sign.  I decided it was a good sign, too.

But at the office, there were no keys.  Maybe it wasn't a good sign after all.

I dumped out my purse.  I dumped everything out.  And then I realized - there was something in my purse, still.

And there they were.  My keys.

They had gotten between the lining of my purse and its leather.  I had had them all the time - in my purse, but not within reach - not in the normal way.

This is alchemy.  Read "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho (1988).  Read "The Alchemist's Handbook," by Frater Albertus (1960).  You'll see what I mean.

So then I was happy, and I couldn't imagine the despair from before.  And maybe this is alchemy too. 

And then I went home.  It was another hour away.

No comments: