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Beach Wrack

August is over and I’ve hardly written since May.   Over and over again with this journal, I catch that remembrance of myself as poet, one who puts words on a page, only to find it transitory.

I’m gone and back not only from a planned beach vacation, but also from spending some unexpected time with my mom after the sudden loss of her closest cousin.  He had no kids, so one of my great-grandparents’ most cherished possessions is Mom’s now, a religious picture dating from the days before her grandfather left the monastery and went on to sire seven children.  

She told me, clearly not meaning for it to bother me, how she and another cousin had already talked about not knowing where it should eventually go next, since in my generation, there’s no one who is practicing their faith.  Which is certainly true, if by that you mean, regularly attending Catholic Mass.   

I know she didn’t mean this as a censure, but rather an indicator that no one would want it.  And it’s true that I’m not particularly invested in the object in question, though I am in thinking of myself as a person of faith.

There was a time in my life when an awareness of God’s presence was something I carried with me every day.  Even when it infuriated me (and it did), it was there.   Now, most of the time, it seems that God’s is just another of the voices that’s gone dormant.

Mom had no way of knowing this, but several Sundays before our conversation, I’d essayed the experiment of going to church.  It turned out a somewhat qualified disaster.  

An Episcopal service, that Communion was open to all was made evident in multiple ways—invitation printed in the program as well as issued expressly during the liturgy.

That this was a personal message to me could not have seemed clearer (Be not afraid) so I went up and shared the Host but then (completely, if not inexplicably) panicked and ended up detouring around the altar server with the wine in what felt like the most rude, obvious way.  I spent the last few minutes of the service breathing hard back at my seat, escaping at the first possible second, which entailed detouring around folks queuing to say Good Morning to the priest, most rude and obvious again.

It’s possible that this all occurred less noticeably than I think.  But I’d gone alone, so the only reassurance possible that it was not as bad as I’m imagining would have to be my own.  Which means what I’ve really got is the sneaking suspicion that it was, in fact, even worse.

I’ve mentioned before that Rockport has the most extraordinary beachcombing.  Old, old beach glass, cobalt, lavendar, brown so mellow you can taste the root beer on your tongue.  Pottery fragments, most patterned on only one side, so you end up turning over dozens of beautifully polished white chunks on the chance they have even more wonder to reveal.

The tuff one can spend hours searching for treasure, in all its infinite varieties: size, shape, color, texture.  She’s learned that there are so many possible qualities that can astonish, attract, endear.  

I want this to be the metaphor for how I put my faith into practice, a willingness to keep reaching, reaching for those moments that might again gift me that sense:

God,with me here in the world.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 13th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
First, I'm sorry for your loss of your mother's cousin. R.i.p.

Second: Hi! I'm glad to see you back. Selfishly, I wish you'd blog every day--you almost always touch on stuff of interest to me (even though I don't watch "Supernatural" I can relate fannishly).

Oddly, my neighbor was talking to me recently about having inherited a family heirloom--one of the first printings of a famous religious image of an old man praying over a loaf of bread. She didn't really relate to it, but didn't want to reject it either.
(Have you seen "The Barbarian Invasions"? It raises the question of what to do with religious images on a large scale once society no longer wants them.)

As for being noticeable in church, having spent a lot of time in church myself, a few years ago, I'd say people don't really care if a visitor (or a regular) acts a little out of the norm---that in itself is normal! I was really impressed with what churchgoers take in stride. Of course, I'm talking about Catholics... Episcopalians may be somewhat tidier?

(Alternatively, to set it in Helen Fielding's secular context, people don't much notice what other people do, they're too busy paying attention to themselves.)

Sep. 14th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Well, I don’t know about selfish, but that’s the nicest compliment I could imagine at the moment!

Thanks, also, for the condolences. I’ve been finding it hard to talk about, because “my mom’s cousin” sounds so remote—and, y’know, she does have 32 of them, some of whom I only know by name. But we lived next door to Tony from the time I was 3 until I was 16 and he continued to be part of my grown-up life in many wonderful ways.

I'm sure you're right about the high tolerance of other churchgoers. I think what threw me most is my own surprise at my reaction. I'm usually a little better at keeping it together when I find myself in a triggery situation, but I was just unprepared for how viscerally it would affect me.

I probably shouldn’t have been.

My first encounter with an open Communion came in a Metropolitan Community Church in Alabama. Every week, it’d be stated that you “did not need to be a member of this church, or any church” and I found the usual invocation particularly beautiful—This is the table of God, for the people of God. Come, let us keep the feast. It just made worlds more sense to me for it be okay for individuals who might not be sure what or whether they believed to be welcome to participate in the very moment of the service when I found my own belief to be most resonant.

But I am worlds away from that time in my life, and so very, very different. I think I was expecting nothing more than nostalgia and the real reason I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back (yet) is because I’m I’m not sure I’m ready to admit how much more I sensed waiting.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )