Not that long ago, I had to take some time away from the reality of life.
I spent most of these days learning how to breathe again. They were not easy days, but I’ve been told that you need to feel in order to be free, that the breath and the spirit are connected, and as Omid Safi writes, ‘we cannot be who are, we cannot become who we are intended to become, without breathing properly’. That it’s the breath that sustains us, inspires us, and in turn leaves us.
On these days that I was learning how to breathe again, I would walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I had never taken the time to stop and look at just how many bench seats there are in the gardens. They are literally everywhere you look, facing all different ways, each of them dedicated in memory of a loved one who has passed.
As I imagined those still here, sitting on these benches, feeling to be free, breathing to connect, it reminded me of the ‘wind telephone’ in Japan. A man grieving the loss of his cousin bought an old-fashioned phone booth and stuck it in his garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He would go in the booth, pick up the phone (which was connected to nothing) and talk to his dead cousin. It then became a place of public gathering after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, and a Japanese film crew filmed people inside the phone booth talking to their loved ones. A little boy assured his grandfather that he had done his homework.
Looking at the bench seats, I thought of the ‘wind telephone’ and imagined picking up a phone and calling my sister in the middle of the gardens. I can’t tell you today what I would have told her on that day, but I do know that in that moment, I was teaching myself how to take in a breath that is connected to a healing spirit.