Still, I had extraordinary “luck” finding all of the sapphires I needed. Such luck I made time to walk the pilgrimage up Sri Pada in gratitude. Plus, it sounded like a fun adventure and it didn’t take much to cajole a dear family of Sri Lankans I’d become close with to join me.
To assure an early start up the mountain, we left the coastal capital of Colombo in the late afternoon, had a light supper at a guest house along the way, and made a base camp of sorts in a crumbling cinder-block hotel not far from the mountain’s trail head.
The father, my friend Anura, sat sentinel in the truck outside our room. The mother, their two children, and I curled together on an unsheeted double mattress. The mosquito net over the bed was ripped and torn, ineffective against the insects zinging through the window holes in the concrete block walls.
Sleeping with so many, so close, was new to me. While I’m the oldest of five, it had been decades since I’d been around kids. Friends would hand me their babies, and I’d give them back saying “not in this blouse!”
Piled on the mattress, I listened to my friend soothe her children to sleep, petting their curved limbs, humming low and rhythmically. One of the kids spooned into me, so naturally trusting I wouldn’t object. I warmed and softened around the child’s body, surprised by my instinctual response.
Few adults slept before our 4 am wake-up.
Fueled by anticipation, bananas, and biscuits, we took the early part of the trek in an easy walk through a darkened landscape of tea plant and rubber tree silhouettes. The full moon and lights from other pilgrims illuminated our path.
The last half of the seven-mile hike was a strenuous series of narrow cement and rock steps that grew steeper and steeper as the trail wound towards the top. First the mother and children dropped out, eventually the father, leaving me, the Lone Ranger, to finish the ascent.
On the summit I could hear prayers offered up in different languages and religions. Prayer flags flapped in the wind as we united in the beauty of the sun rising above the Indian Ocean. Language was no barrier to our shared experience of beauty, reverence and greetings.
You might think the poignant experience of shared prayers in such a setting was “The Moment” for this trip, but I was undergoing another dawning.
Under that tattered mosquito tent on a small bed with her children, my friend Anagi let me experience the holy love of mother and child. With the sunrise came the dawning that I was at a fork in the road. At 40, married to my business, I was already a short distance down one of those paths. Could I turn back? Could I cut over to the other road? Did I dare wish for motherhood?
Those were the thoughts that began reflecting beneath the full moon as I trekked up Sri Pada. What began as a grateful prayer for some sapphires dawned into another era in my life.
And, haven’t I told you that pearls are right for any occasion? Again, I wore classic pearls: simple, round, glowing like the mother moon. The cycle of full moon setting, earth turning, moon passing off to a rising sun marked another cycle’s turning in my life.