A gathering of friends and family will be celebrating the life of my friend, Dale. We’ll have a chance to remember a man who worked hard to figure out who he was and how he fit into this world, one that presents an assortment of opportunities to soulfully grow in depth and breadth.
For a number of years, I studied Sufism with a Spiritual Teacher, Cynthia Bougeault, an Anglican Priest who is a Hermit. While undertaking these studies, I would spend time with Dale, discussing the mysteries of our lives. Dale’s quiet wisdom would often parallel that of the Desert Fathers whose teachings are found in Sufism.
I came close to sharing a book of Sufi prose and poetry with Dale. I found a small literary gem on sale in an obscure section of an “alternate” book store. Beautifully and ornately bound, it contains many of Rumi’s poems. However, I could not turn it over to the possibilities of Dale’s lifestyle deforming its pristine condition.
Dale lived with birds. From two to six cockateils enjoyed free range in his house. Feathers, dander, droppings and dive bombs punctuated each visit. In the middle of expressing the length of any invisible item being measured by hand, a surprise landing would change the subject with a yelp. Another cockateil would land on a shoulder adorned by the cleanest, freshest, and most fashionable article of clothing. Plop! A gift of green slime, fresh with a creative curl, would be deposited as a gesture of inclusiveness.
At times, Dale seemed taken aback that a visitor would be so nervous in the midst of discussing the depth of a new Rumi discovery. Rumi would be flung aside in the shuffle necessary to prevent connection with a dangerously close deposit from a well-fed streak of gray/yellow feathers. Likely Dale wondered what would possess a woman to watch his every move as he prepared her cup of coffee in a kitchen shared with his wee friends.
Once the household adjusted and settled to a new person being in the aviary and once the new person relaxed that her feather allergy would not kick in for at least an hour, Rumi and the Desert Fathers could again hold court.
I loved telling Dale about a particular knot of mysticism these ancient souls presented for me, a spiritual concept that had me mystified. I would try to unravel it in the telling. At times, I wasn’t sure if Dale was really listening or if he was absorbed in guarding me from his feathered roomies. He’d suddenly get out of his chair to wipe another dropping that fell close to one of us. He’d quietly say something like, “The message is just like the one here.”
“The one here?” I’d ask, watching him capture fecal matter.
“Yes. We can let chaos rule over us or we can engage in an effort to restore calm. The rest of the world calms with us.”
That personifies my friend Dale. He may not have been a Desert Father in this lifetime. But as my simple, soulful and significant Prairie Brother, the wisdom is just as good.