I have been living in New Mexico and recently suffering the effects of dastardly juniper pollen. Either my eyes itch until I frantically rub them raw, or finally my over-the-counter meds kick in enough to tone down the itching to a dull ache. When this happens, instead of itching, often my eyes will just leak tears.
I assume this is a good thing. My body is trying to rid itself of this alien invader, this totally natural substance that feels completely foreign to this eastern-born-and-bred woman.
As I note these silent tears, I am reminded of other times when silent tears ran down my cheeks. The first instance I remember happened on May 5, 1995. You may be wondering why I remember the exact date. It’s because it was my first wedding anniversary post-marital break-up.
Interestingly, my mind had not been aware of the date that day. But when I went to church that Sunday morning, shortly into the service I noticed tears were streaming down my face. I was not crying–at least not consciously or audibly. There was not anything obviously emotional or moving going on around me. I was quite puzzled, especially as the tears continued for perhaps twenty minutes or so. I finally whispered to the friend sitting next to me, “I don’t know why these tears keep falling down my face.” That’s when she told me it was my anniversary. How did she know, you may wonder? She was my husband’s girlfriend. He must have mentioned it to her that morning.
I hasten to add, lest you think badly of my then-husband, that they got together a couple of months after he and I faced the sad fact that our marriage seemed to be broken. To be honest, I don’t know that we were necessarily irrevocably broken, but we had been suffering for many long months. And even though we still loved one another, I finally received a message that we were meant to let go.
I find it extremely interesting that my mind didn’t remember the date, but my soul clearly did.
This silent tear phenomenon happened again in September of last year. I had been in the second week of my pilgrimage, this soul-driven journey that my intuition had prodded me to embark upon. The day before I had finally turned my car westward from my home in the Mt. Shasta area. I was driving alongside the Klamath River in northern California, in Karuk nation territory. After resting one night in a campsite next to the beautiful river, I again drove west and soon found myself turning off the road I had traveled on only once before, two years prior, and onto a completely unknown and extremely remote road through the Klamath National Forest.
I had been driving on this very curvy, very narrow mountain road for perhaps 45 minutes. I had encountered only about two cars. I was on a long section of the road which boasted no homes, no crossroads, and no driveways. Trees, grasses, and a few wildflowers: that was all I saw. Until, seemingly out of nowhere, I noticed this rather ornate gate and several beautifully built stone buildings which reminded me of a national monument or perhaps a museum or visitors center. It was none of the above. Instead I saw a sign which read “Yurok Veterans Cemetery.”
As my pilgrimage was kind of a sacred quest, I felt compelled to stop and offer prayers. The gate was locked but there were some small rounded boulders at the right side of the short driveway. I parked my car off to the side, dug around in a box on the passenger seat for my rattle, and I got out and sat on one of those rocks.
After a few moments, I commenced to shake my rattle and pray. As is typical for me when I am outside, I sang my prayers. I sang out a welcome to the spirits of the land. I probably greeted the air, the sun, the trees, the flowers, and the waters. And then I sang to the spirits of those who were buried there. I thanked them for their service and I prayed that they had been appreciated. I prayed too for those who loved them and who lived on. I don’t remember exactly all that I prayed, but what I surely do remember is that within moments of beginning my prayers, silent tears started rolling down my cheeks. And those tears streamed for the entire length of my prayers.
What did those tears mean? Clearly my soul was remembering or feeling something. I wonder if perhaps I had been a part of this particular tribe in a former lifetime. I don’t think I had ever heard much about the Yurok people prior to this visit, even though I later learned they are the largest tribe in California. But obviously there was some deep soul connection between me and these people.
I am grateful for tears. Eyes are said to be a window into the soul; perhaps tears are then a way for our souls to communicate with us. Perhaps, like my allergy-related tears, they are a way to help cleanse us, releasing or helping to heal a sad or poignant memory.
This last story is one of several that I share in my most recently completed book: Pilgrimage through Native Lands: A White Woman’s Journey of Discovery and Remembrance.
Currently this book is available directly from the author. If you are interested in a signed copy or an ebook, please contact Cynthia Greb directly via the contact form on her website.)