William Edelen: Weavers of Wisdom



In Praise of Grandmothers, for this special day of memory.

Two observations this past week about grandmothers caught my immediate attention. Preparing my essay on the immortal GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ… I read his remark that the most influential person in his life was his maternal grandmother.

And in visiting with my new kindred spirit, GENE TAGABAN, the Raven Dancer, at the Ojai Story Festival, he told me that the most influential person in his life had been his grandmother.

These observations stimulated my own mind to go into a fast rewind and realize that the most influential person in my young life had been my maternal grandmother… “Mama Deaver” as she was lovingly known. She had homesteaded with her husband “Papa Deaver” on the staked plains of West Texas, close to the little settlement of about 300 people, called Jayton.

She lived to be 96 years old without having ever read a “health” book or taking a “multi-vitamin”. Her absolute JOY in life and living nourished her mind, body and spirit as the ultimate vitamin. I spent all of my summers with them from about 6 yrs old through high school. Those days are among my most precious memories. No electricity, only oil lamps and candles. No water, only rain barrels and cisterns. No indoor toilets, only the famous outhouse with a Sears catalog for toilet paper. No ovens, stoves or microwaves, only wood stoves, wood fires, wood cooking.

Their little house and homestead was surrounded by gigantic ranches. Behind their house was a corral for breaking horses… and other requirements for horse training. I would sit on the corral poles and watch them daily. I would learn to ride with the cowboys and found them good company. I would hunt doves and rabbits and bring them back to Mama Deaver for dinner. I would sit at dinner fascinated and mesmerized by watching Papa Deaver eat clabber, and with his giant moustache soaked and dripping, continue until the bowl was empty.

Mama Deaver would take me for walks every morning… and with her joy flowing over would look at a rock on our path and say to me, “Oh William Lewis… look… LOOK… how beautiful… this little colored rock is… oh William Lewis… that beautiful rock is God.”

In my mature years of knowledge and philosophy I realized that my beloved grandmother, Mama Deaver, was a true MYSTIC. A natural, woman of the earth, Mystic. She never had heard the word… read the word… knew the word… meaning and significance… but her natural spirit knew that EVERYTHING was God. A TRUE Mystic.

She would have adored that brilliant and giant mystic of 800 years ago, MEISTER ECKHART, who said and wrote exactly the same words as my grandmother on a West Texas homestead, without an hour of “formal” education, but loaded with degrees of Natural education of the heart and spirit. She would have known and yelled YES… YES… to Eckhart’s statements about something we call “God”. “Do you want to see God… look at a pile of dung in the stable…” “look in the mirror”… “To go around looking for God is like sitting on an ox looking for an ox to ride.”

Eckhart would have said to Mama Deaver… “Yes… dear lady… to see God… look at a beautifully colored rock on your path”… but Mama Deaver already knew that. She was a “weaver of wisdom” to me, William Lewis, who drank daily at her fountain with her natural, spirit-fed, profound words… weaving wisdom into my young, fertile brain.

Mysticism, you see, is the art of union with Reality. It is grounded in love, which is not a state but a direction. As the Kabbalah of Judaism reads: “God is not EXTERNAL to anything. Wisdom comes to us only from WITHIN. Every definition of God is heresy; definition is idolatry. Do not say, this is a stone and not GOD, rather EVERYTHING IS GOD… and all existence.”

My grandmother Mama Deaver, woman born of the earth, with a spirit and soul formed by cosmic and natural energies of the earth, KNEW these TRUTHS… known by WEAVERS of WISDOM… and passed them on to me William Lewis on brilliant morning walks… with her talk… that there is not GOD AND anything… EVERYTHING IS GOD, from this gorgeous colored rock… to that Aspen leaf quaking in the breeze.

On this day of Mothers and Grandmothers… Mama Deaver… THANK YOU… I LOVE YOU…