Birth is defined as a one-time activity. You are born, you "start to exist" as the OED says, and then you die. But, as I am sitting here overlooking the expanse of nature's creation through a glassdoor barn in rural Pennsylvania, I am asking myself what it means to "continue to exist".
Certainly this seems like an exercise we take for granted, like breathing, we just exist because we do. Is there a reason and intentionality to sustaining, or for that matter, rebuilding life? Navroz in the Ismaili Muslim tradition is an opportunity for renewal, because it takes courage to move forward with conviction that while nothing in life ever stays the same, that which you have lost always comes around in another form. There is no end to Allah's creation, nor His compassion, if we look past the grief to allow rebirth.
Three years ago, I was awarded a fellowship in children's literature at the Highlights Foundation, the beginning of a new journey. I was devastated when Covid cost us the opportunity to be able to enjoy this beautiful campus with our peers and soul-friends, as writers tend to become. Today, I am back here for a new fellowship for Muslim Storytellers - as faculty this time. What I thought was lost was restored to me in a manner that I could not have envisioned in my wildest dreams. Did I just have a 3-hour drive talking about Shia perspectives with Huda Al-Marashi? Did I just have a "light" conversation on raising awareness of Muslim narratives in media over breakfast with S.K. Ali, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, and M.O. Yuksel?
My calling and all of the people with whom it intertwines, precede me in ways to which I am utterly blind and in awe. The grace of my existence unfolds often through the acceptance of all the fallen leaves that fertilize the start of a new season. Perhaps you have to be away from yourself for a while to recognize yourself in your new form on the other side - all of the parts of you that are still being born. There is no state of permanence in this world, only renewal. Allowing for, surrendering to, that mercy is all a part of the bittersweet journey.
"God loves me," Maya Angelou breaks into tears whenever she affirms that in an interview. "It still humbles me that this force, which made leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me." What a profound thought. All of this beauty and light and life, Spring, brought back year after year, just to make us happy. Alhamdulillah and Navroz Mubarak. May you find the courage in your new beginnings as I have in mine.