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Excerpted from The Ecstatic Journey by Sophy Burnham. Copyright © 1999 by Sophy Burnham. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"And all the while I did not know that I was "rowing toward God," as the poet Anne Sexton put it."

Sophy Burnham, 
The Ecstatic Journey
, Part 1

When I was a child of three or four I ran outside with my sister into the arms of a summer storm. Two naked little girls. The trees raked and swayed with the wind that stripped the green leaves and sent them tumbling over the grass. We danced in the wind. We flung out our arms and whirled with the electric leaves, and I knew that if I lifted my arms, my wings, I would rise up and soar like the hawks on the wind. I would sail across the skies, for nothing separated me from the elements. I was the wind, the blowing, bending trees, the green wild grass. I was the storm, the earth, the acorns that bruised my tiny bare feet. I was my sister and my own naked little body leaping and turning round and round in the summer storm.

Then my mother called us indoors. I don't remember anything else, but probably she toweled us dry while we pranced laughing around the kitchen, and then she gave us some dinner and read us to sleep.

At five I went to school and then I lost this sense of unity. Connectedness. All my life I have been trying to return to that innocent state of the child of three…


Soon I had two children and was living in New York, writing articles. I published a bestselling book. I loved my family and garden and friends, was having a wonderful time, when suddenly, in 1973, we were moved back to Washington, D.C. And all the while I did not know that I was "rowing toward God," as the poet Anne Sexton put it.

I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
but there will be a door
and I will open it...

Once, a few years earlier, I'd had a kind of vision. I was working at my desk. I sat at my rickety manual typewriter, utterly absorbed in the article I was writing. At a certain moment I lifted my eyes from the page, glanced out the window at a maple tree--and for an instant I became the tree. No separation. I was the bark, the wood, the fleshy summer leaves. Time stopped.

Satori, came the ponderous thought, and with that word, arriving like an endless, slow, wavelike movement of my mind, with the naming of the moment, everything fragmented again back into its different parts--myself, the typewriter, the tree now safely separated from me by the windowpane.

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