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My husband, Ram, is out in a Near Eastern desert at an undisclosed location, nigh on three weeks into his deployment. His days are obscenely long and tiring, and we don’t get many opportunities to speak. He does write me with dedication, however, sending me both long emails and gushing love letters in the post.

He tells me stories about the desert. Some worrying, some beautiful (none of them in violation of OPSEC). Having obtained his permission, I shall relay to you now one of the stories he told me; one of religious significance.

We had to cancel our morning flights due to a large storm cell that moved in over the flight line. Unlike in the States, where the topography breaks up most of the storm, the desert’s openness grants the viewer full exposure to the entire event.

Photo by jayRaz (Flickr)

Photo by jayRaz

It was quite a large storm. I was the only one standing out on the flight line for some time, after everyone had been called in for L5 (lightning 5 miles out).

I watched the storm roll in across the coast. An angry, beautiful mess of darkness, and crisp, quick light. There were many single bolts of lightning hitting near the water’s edge, but nothing had come close to the jets yet.

I had the feeling of being at home — or rather, of going back home — creep on me, as the rain washed the grime off me. I then found myself talking aloud. I don’t recall precisely what I had said, but I spoke to the effect of telling Set that I was sorry that I was speaking to Him informally. That I was sorry that my countrymen and I were in His lands for ill business. I told Him that I missed you dearly, that you are the love of my life, the blood of my blood, and that I wish I was able to feel you, love you physically again. I explained that I was aware of these being, in a sense, His lands, and that I would do my best to mind my actions whilst here.

It was after I closed the conversation, that perhaps the largest strike I had ever seen, occurred. Seven lightning bolts formed a chain just past the control towers, and arched across the sky, deep into the darkness.

The wind picked up, and the storm rolled across the sea.

Ram is for all intents strictly Heathen in his spiritual practice. Namely, a devotee of Freyr. There’s something to be said for the manner of respect he displays toward Gods Who are not of his understanding, to lands he does not belong, and to people he does not know. He succeeds where many other Heathens tend to fail — and indeed, other Marines. True warriordom isn’t about going on a testosterone-juiced ego trip, the imposition of oneself on others, and/or the brutish use of weapons with intent to sow suffering and humiliation. That’s soldiery, at best and in the kindest terms (though I have plenty of uncouth labels for that manner of behavior on the tip of my tongue). Rather, true warriordom is about respect and self-mastery, and doing one’s duty with compassionate detachment. A warrior doesn’t simply fight and kill. A warrior is respectful. A warrior honors. A warrior sacrifices. A warrior loves. A warrior preserves.

I’m grateful for his stories, for the opportunity to hear them and read them. I’m grateful for the strength of his character, though I wish it were less of a rarity in the world. I’m grateful for the respect he shows toward the Gods Who are foremost in my life, not just those that feature prominently in his. Above all, I’m grateful that he and I are each other’s. He never ceases to give me reasons to be proud of him.

Life in the desert is not possible without water. Ram is my water, my well, my refreshment, and I am his. I make certain to thank the Lord of the Oasis for my husband, who sustains me, and for his stories and loving words, which give me life when stranded in the badlands of separation, when he is serving in a foreign desert.

And I am grateful to my “Father,” Set, the Lord of the Oasis, Who gives my husband life in an unyielding desert far from his home, Who washes the face of my husband, Who gives us comfort and hope.

The God Set, donning the trailing "bull's tail" sash. Art by Jeff Dahl.

Art by Jeff Dahl

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