Justice and Advocacy · Personal reflections · Short stories

Terra’s Temple

She mounts the steps to her temple, minding carefully the cracks in the ancient stone. Centuries ago the pillars crumbled and the roof fell.

Now her stride is uneven, but she still walks with the pride of a goddess. The language is lost, her pride would never have connoted a hint of hubris. It once meant the transcendence of a deity, the air of a higher form, the earned love of her subjects.

Her appearance grew more transparent as her worshippers dwindled, and now her appearance at the temple meets no awestruck faces, no gifts or sacrifices, no prayers, no trembling adults on their knees, and no shy-curious glances stolen by children. Were anyone there at all to greet her, they might have only sensed a shimmer as the light mingled with her ghost. Her gown still hung in glorious abandon on her stately shoulders, thrown back, but now more from determined habit than assured worth.

Today was the twenty-second of the fourth month of the year, and nobody came to the temple of the planet.

The children were distracted, even the sacrilege of peeking at her glory had lost their interest. The sacrifices that used to pile and clutter the wide altars were never of life, as the other deities demanded. She asked not for the carcasses of lost sustenance, but for items used to cut and command life in her realm. If a man could sacrifice a calf for Allah, he could sacrifice an unused slaughter-knife to Terra. If a man could fall out of favor with Yahweh for offering rotten fruits, he could bring them to Terra to fortify her sacred ground.

So it was that the households of the ancients honored balance, and even spades and tools were amongst the offerings. They expressed refrain from tearing at the ground and trees; they expressed the weight of responsibility to plant and harvest without exceeding necessity; they showed understanding that she granted them their survival.

And the world had thrived, and the temple had stood. Terra stood where she had always stood, and listened as she always had, and the silence extracted emotion from the unconquerable. For the first time in that temple, its goddess learned what it was to fall to her own knees. She heard the absence of worship where she’d never given it credit: from the fallen trees and the birds who once nested in their branches, from mothers shushing their whimpering babies, from the noises of animals and many feet, from the energy of collected presence, from inhaling and exhaling.

There on the temple floor, she placed both hands over her face and wept for what was lost.

I once believed that death in childbirth was a worthy sacrifice.

Even her suffering and grief was unheard by the wind and dirt. She wept for each season as it passed, the idea of her fading to less than a glimmer. She mourned, her essence slipping away, until even those who’d heard reinvented stories of her forgot about her. With no observation left to sustain her being, nothing swallowed Terra’s essence.

Horizon is illusion.
Sacrifice is nothing.
Time is a lie.