“His voice was like a noise of many waters…” (Ezekiel 43:2)
A lady in lavender is summoned by the sea. She steps to the shore in silver sandals. She is alone and yet never alone. His voice rises like a wave. Only His voice can quench the fire in her bones. She waits in peace for words from the depths of the ocean. No one can see what she sees or hear what she hears. A laughing gull cries, and the waves swirl around her ankles. The sand beneath her pulls her inward. She knows never to resist, but only to stand and wait and yield. The sandpipers come closer and tip their heads. The angel shells nod as they sink back into the sand. The lady’s fingers search the sea breezes for strands and she weaves them into whispers. “Yes” she says in reply to the ocean king. The taste of salt is in her mouth. The waters recede and gifts are sprinkled around her feet. She picks up crystalline shells and seaweed as intricate as ancient lace. Three seagulls cry together and she hears her secret name, given to her by the sea. She slips her feet into her sandals and leaves the wind at her back. Her silver hair reaches its tendrils forward, and her eyes see the path beyond the sea oats that are waving in the same direction. “Ye are the salt of the earth,“ says the sea breeze.
The lady stops outside the prison door and sees herself in the two-sided glass. She pulls her lavender shawl around her neck and shoulders to prepare for the coldness inside. She waits for a beep and pushes the cold metal door open. She goes to the faceless woman behind the dark glass and asks to speak to the director. A husky black man with oval glasses and a flat top haircut comes to the lobby and calls for her. He is wearing a navy blue polo with the facility name embroidered on the chest and matching khaki pants. He talks into his walky-talky as he leads her over the scuffed floors and through bland bone-colored halls to his office. She takes out her mother-of-pearl pen and fills out papers on his desk. The two speak quietly in his carpeted cubicle and he shakes her hand softly. She writes down some names of prisoners to visit, and he tells her what days she can come. She rises from her chair and nods in gratitude to the man who opened the doors to her. She knows the Voice who caused him to open the doors, but she always respects earthly authority. “He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens…”
As she drives away, three mourning doves flutter over her windshield and light in the grass by the lake. She smiles at the messengers and drives away.
Iris returns to the prison and is sent into a classroom with cheap plastic chairs and one grey table. On the wall is a poster of a spreading green tree. She remembers this tree from a dream. She waits in silence. An echo of footsteps and voices in the hallway makes her heart pound. She twists the mother-of-pearl on her finger, and then rests her right hand on her knee. She prays for power and grace. The heavy footsteps shuffle outside the doors, then a key turns the lock and in they come. Young men in uniforms trudge in with hands behind their backs, heads low and weary. Their brown plastic sandals scratch like chalk on a chalk board. One inmate is wearing red. This means he could erupt in violence. One boy is wearing orange. This means suicidal. She sees tattoos and wrists carved with unknown symbols. Her heart is grieved. What will she say to them? The taste of salt comes to her mouth. The young men sit down. Their eyes startle her. They seem so weak, so sad, so desperate. She had not expected this.
Iris speaks softly with the prisoners, and the voice is inside of her. The taste of salt is always on her tongue. She is surprised how the young prisoners search her face, and look upon her as a mother. She learns that it is not her, but the tides of the ocean are pulling upon them, and the living water is flowing out of her mouth and sometimes it trickles from her eyes. Sometimes the prisoners cough up disfigured and unclean creatures upon the floor, where they writhe and squirm in their slimy grotesque forms. When the salt water touches them, they cry out and die in agony at the lady’s feet. The ocean king does the cleansing, yet the lady is rewarded as if she had done it herself.
Sometimes the water flows gently and softly. Sometimes it rumbles and powerful waves strike someone, and they are cast down and broken before the cleansing. The will of the ocean determines the way the waters move and work on the souls in the room. When the waters recede, the work is done and it is done well.
The lady knows the power of stories. If she can get a person to tell their story, a door cracks open and a sliver of light comes through, and suddenly she can touch their soul. She has learned that anyone in the right moment, in the right place, in the right state of mind, can be persuaded to open the door of his soul. She has learned to watch for the crack in the door.
It is a wonderful thing to be in the presence of stories. It is a great net for catching souls. She watches the young inmates compete for a chance to tell their story. They all rush in like seagulls with fierce eyes that spot a fish in the sea foam. With eagerness they wait for their chance. Her heart ripples with waves of joy at moments like these, when souls come out of their shells so raw and open. They are all washed together in the tides of stories and passion and pain and love. Tears and smiles and songs come bursting forth, like hidden fish and shells from deep in the waters. This is the time when one might pluck a drowning soul from deep waters, like a luminous pearl.
In a room full of stories, a door springs open and God glides right in and glory takes place. She witnessed it and it makes life worth living because souls make their statement and find their place of belonging. It is priceless and it is real and it is satisfying beyond all words, in that realm where all souls fall silent.
As Iris steps outside, a Great Heron watches her with one eye, from among the rushes. The lady and bird nod reverently at one another.
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”