The Benedictine nun standing before me was wearing an apron over her habit. It was bright blue and covered in whales. The scent of floral lotion wafted in my direction as she extended her hand. She was much taller than my five-foot-six frame, and positively radiant.
"Your apron is beautiful," I said, immediately regretting I had not thought of a more eloquent compliment for such a creature of beauty.
"Oh, thank you. A woman sews them for us." I took this to mean a woman who was not a nun at the cloistered convent in rural Colorado.
The sister gave me an orientation of the retreat center where I'd be staying. We walked down a long hallway of rooms, each one named after a Catholic saint: Peter, Gertrude, James, Scholastica, Walburga, and Mary Magdalene. Then we walked up a flight of stairs where the rooms had names like Good Counsel, Seat of Wisdom, and Glory of Israel.
"And here is your room." The sister pointed to a door that said "Looser of Knots." I smiled, repressing an urge to laugh. Of course it is. I took it as a sign I'd come to the right place to loosen the knots of fear and anxiety that had begun to constrict my once hopeful spirit. Negative thoughts grew more persistent. Who am I to follow my dreams?
My room overlooked a pasture of grazing cows and llamas. I lounged in the faux leather recliner beside the bed and read And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Stories From the Byways of American Women and Religion. I walked. I journaled. I considered all the ways my spiritual and psychic knots hold me back. I skipped the morning prayer services at 4:50, 6:50, and 7:30 in favor of sleep, opting to worship with the sisters in the evenings. They chanted the psalms by moonlight.
As the wind howled outside the sanctuary door we gathered around a single lit candle. The Mother Abbess sprinkled me with holy water, smiled, and looked into my eyes saying, "God bless you." The sisters became living incarnations of the Goddess, that ancient, once-revered vision of the divine as woman (back before the story of Eve made the world believe women were bearers of sin, rather than bearers of sacred wisdom).
When I returned home and to cell phone range, I looked up the phrase "Looser of Knots." I was shocked to learn it wasn't a reference to existential problems, but of a very special spiritual gift. It comes from a story in the Old Testament book of Daniel and refers to magicians, enchanters, and diviners who were said to possess the wisdom of the gods. They had the power to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems (i.e. loosen knots). I came to the end of the story and laughed with delight.
It's just like me to assume the answer to all my problems is to fixate on all my problems, as in the things that are wrong with me. Instead, what I so desperately needed was an affirmation: Looser of Knots. It came as a blessing, a reminder we are endowed with the spirit of the divine which gives us the power to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. The way up and out and through is to believe, really believe in the sacred wisdom that dwells within us.
You, dear friend, are a Looser of Knots.