Soundtrack in my head: Kiltarten Road, “Carol of the Field Mice”
It was an unusually warm day for a November 19th in Wisconsin. It was up in the 50’s and foggy. I could barely focus on the dinner conversation at the co-op house. After dinner, I ventured outside. I had a lot on my mind as I walked toward the Wisconsin Union on the edge of Lake Mendota.
I walked into the Union and cut through the Rathskellar. The place seemed unusually noisy, but quiet greeted me as I walked out onto the Union patio. No one was there on the patio—who would be on a November night? I walked past the empty metal tables and chairs and stepped up to the water’s edge. The lake was enshrouded in fog, yet it was remarkably windy and the waves churned.
I’d been here many times before when needing a quiet moment to gather my thoughts. I often traveled to Madison before I moved here, and it was here that I’d often contemplate moving here and starting a new life here. One of the reasons I wanted to move up here was to help establish Mahikari here in the Madison area. Ironically, I was now here for a different purpose…
I walked out onto a part of the patio that sticks out like a pier, so that I would be surrounded by water on three sides. People were leaving it just as I approached it. I walked to the water’s edge, opened my Baha’i prayer book, and began to read a long prayer. I read it slowly in order to grasp and savor every word.
Then I sat down and meditated on my life since the day I was introduced to the Baha’i Faith nineteen years ago this month. I thought about what was happening with me then and what has happened since. Just as I was concluding my meditation, a friendly fisherman came up to me and asked me if it was okay for him to fish there. I told him it was fine and we chatted for a few minutes. Then I told him I was getting chilly and I walked down the shoreline a bit and found another place to sit.
Then I offered more prayers. I decided to recite “Allah-u-Abha” ninety-five times, a standard Baha’i practice. As I recited the phrase, it began to feel like a countdown was proceeding, with each recitation of the Greatest Name bringing me a step closer to the magical moment of declaration. When I finished, I pulled out of my shirt pocket a 3 x 5 index card with blue printing on it. Someone gave me this card three months ago when I first showed up at the Baha’i Center here in Madison. On the top of the card, the words “Baha’i Declaration” were printed. I filled in my name and address, birth date, phone number, and signed and dated the card.
There’s so much more I could say, and so much more I will say, but I’m getting tired and sleepy. It’s been a long but exciting day.
So for now, just mark the time at 7:52 p.m., November 19, 2007. At that very moment, I declared myself a Baha’i.