Monthly Archives: March 2012

snapshot

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. One of those gems of the low-church calendar, a sung communion: at 8 a.m., acapella voices rise together in the little chapel before the startling white—a sudden change from yesterday’s startling red—of the altar.

Afterwards, at the Starbucks down the alley from church, I feasted (as one ought) on a venti Earl Grey (well-endowed with a sufficiently celebratory quantity of half-and-half), and an apple bran muffin.

I love a quiet spot in a busy place: all the bustle of humanity going on around me, while I nestle in a little pool of silence. The groups gathering, one by one, around outdoor tables—that coterie of friends lapping up the thick bar of shade on the patio, while others bask in the sun; the puppy, big-footed and oblivious, no great discriminator of sidewalk trash (leaves, he learns, are acceptable to chew on; cigarettes are not), tangling all possible chairs and limbs in his leash. The middle-aged woman, sitting quietly at one of the outlying tables, taking notes on the Bible in her lap; the guy with the Hawaiian shorts and casual cigarette, slouching unconcernedly over his cell phone and iced coffee at the ‘bar seating’ along the railing. The little girl, sparkle-shoed and stripe-shirted, shepherded along with some difficulty (she likes the dog) by her mother. The young man in sunglasses, a little bounce in his stride, sauntering out with two or three caramel frappucinos in a cardboard holder: a Monday celebration (ridiculous, and lovely) of sugar, and whipped cream, and not much coffee at all. (Who cares?)

Across the street–behind the furniture store which (to my delight) advertises many unusual quiddities on its alleyside brick wall–bright green leaves flutter in the breeze, sporting freely in the bird-woven world between city and sky. Spring has crept into creation. Leaves and flowers, bursting from wood and earth (little universes long perplexed by the shape and color growing within them), discover their true dimension, and are glad. New life shoots through nature, uncontrollable, as fierce and sudden as blood, and fire; red, and white; passion, and innocence.

(Bread on the altar, waiting in the darkness to be made Christ for us. And there we kneel, hands outstretched—what other posture is there?—to receive our God. Be it unto me O Lord according to thy word. Feed on Him in thy heart by faith: till the Eucharist sprouts in our veins, and we are changed. Someday we, too, will burst from this bark of space and time, and laugh as we spring from earthbound exile to the free air of our homing: the atmosphere of infinite grace.)

Stillness. In all this glorious hum and flutter of existence, I am struck by stillness. For nothing moves, unless there is somewhere (at the heart of all things): peace. The stillness of the earth, of gravity–so that the blackbirds may curve, elegantly, against that perpetual attraction. The stillness of the branch, shooting all its leaves into a shimmer of whisper-winded song. The stillness of Christ, around which our days (and all time) dance to their ending.

Earl Grey tea gone, sun still sparkling over the gentle hubbub of the city, I meander home again—resisting the urge to leap out of my car at a stoplight, and caper about in the street with one of those brilliantly orange traffic cones (splendidly adorned with reflectors) on my head. So many prayers and spring leaves later, I almost sense—for an instant—why David danced before his God.

Greetings, favored one: the Lord is with you.

God with us. The fabric of all our joy. The rhythm of all our dancing. The meaning of green, and red, and white, and the world.

Springtime in our souls.

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and it was good

One of the advantages of procrastination is: midnight. Dutiful students are sleeping.

They have missed the miracle.

The change to morning happens silently, and still. The last day (unrepeatable) curves away in pearl-like perfection, touching–for an instant–the edge of a new and darkness-swaddled splendor: and joins the jeweled yesterdays (reaching back, unbroken, to the first) that we call the past.

There are stories—old stories, stories of people who slept when the sun did, and were simple enough for wonder—that animals speak and dead men wander at this secret birth of dawn. More sophisticated, we; now, not even the living notice the pledge of the sun’s return. Lamps measure time into artificial spaces. Minds busy with tomorrow forget to totter (breathless) at the brink of today.

And mystery burgeons at our windows and doors.

No burst of light; not yet the revelation of whatever Name was whispered, when the clocks threw up their hands and all creation hung on the split-second hope that the world might not end tonight.

Darkness is over all: darkness woven together, yet not without seam. The chord shifts on the silent instrument of the world. Minor to major. And all space is changed, ready to twirl the hours into unimaginable day.

(Lazarus, three days dead; yet death became sleep when Christ turned His steps to the tomb. What animal spoke then? What lion-throated majesty or descending dove found tongue, when the man (his Marys all unknowing) rounded the short curve of his departure, and began walking back through death to the Savior?)

Precipice before us; time and space spun out to the fringes. The edge and the end of all we have known. Night too long to endure.

Unfelt, suddenly, the world turns over. And we’re halfway to the sun again.

Good morning.

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thanks. a Sunday litany.

Long streets that fork into new highways with numbered names, leading me to friends and back again: confusion half sanctified by the destination.

Squirrels. I learned the word for squirrel in Spanish today, in a parking lot smelling of tar and afternoon sun and freshly measured out in bright, uncompromising lines like a geometrical zebra. I have forgotten it; but then it is something to have been such a self—a gratuitous I—in such a place, and to have learned the syllables for a prodigious piece of fluffiness, and to have forgotten them again.

(I like the lines. I am always tempted to hop from one to the next, in gleeful homage to their white edges ordering the swath of black: a mathematical dance, like the planets—only on the perpendicular.)

Kindness, flickering in an eye or a familiar voice. Charity–the mystery of God, exploding all our Ecclesiastian assumptions–is born in places as common as the stable, among styrofoam cups and chicken lo mein and an alleyway shortcut to coffee.

Wood floors and bare feet, cookies and Corona, and old windows in the evening sun. Music in the souls and fingers of friends: time, of a different order than that of our clocks, patterning the air with grace. (Black Cat—so named, and aptly—strolls, with the inscrutable silence of cats, through the same air, over the same floors, and naps amid laughter and song. Can his yellow eyes trace, as ours cannot, our interwoven gladness? What idiosyncrasy of God is he, prowling among us?)

1:26 a.m. on a Monday morning. Each second, irretrievable, the ‘now’ we all share, like a cliff edge (what? Are you here, too?) between future and past. Time, though it slips by and breaks our hearts and makes us old with its passing, and for all that is such a thing–that no gratitude could be enough.

This moment, as much an utterance of the eternal Word as the instant of creation.

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