Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Only Monastery That Will Have Me


We try to gather all the apples but of course you cannot gather all the apples.


In the morning, tracks of animals weave in and out of our little orchard as if to make clear how confused we are. How hungry we are and how lost? Well, hand-in-hand anyway, like dolls who don't know who made them. The geese cry out as they pass overhead, their guttural cries as deep and wild as the sea our ancestors crossed to get here. A man who can't remember his dreams has reason to be wary of speech, but on the other hand, the night never passed any quicker than with you.


Remember when we used to wonder if we lived under a bushel? Now we wonder if some old woman came by with a lantern and decided we were unworthy. Asleep when we were supposed to be awake? These roads were last paved in the 1960s, and the bells do grow silent when I step into the steeple's shadow. Morning passes trying to get the old Massey-Ferguson to start, and when it does, you realize it's too late to start haying. You and the neighbors can't agree if it rained last night - you are pretty sure it rained - but who can forget the story of the day their father died?


A riddle: say that when you open your mouth, instead of words, little glass rainbows - like tear-shaped prisms - tumble into your open hands. You can't hold them all, and you can't kneel to gather those that fall because you're afraid of losing even more. Are these gifts to be given away or is somebody trying to tell you something important about your heart?


Distance is a word that explains what we can act on, or what we are in relationship with and so might choose to act or be acted upon by, but "far away" is a story we tell so that our attention won't wander when we need it most.


When I look up, the field is full of shoulder-high goldenrod swaying in an August breeze. Yellow was the answer just long enough to clarify that yellow - like red and blue and purple before it - is never the answer. My feet are shoeless and pale, like a blind man's idea of the moon, or like walking's idea of a loveless marriage. When I look up again, my daughter is talking quietly to a horse, and the horse is listening as if to a secret, as if to a language it never imagined it would hear again.


My throat is falling snow, my tongue is a russet glow in the hemlocks, and January is the chapel where I was taught to pray without anybody noticing. It comes to this, for those of us to whom it comes. Godless and alone, and happier than the tribal scriptures implied was possible, I turn back to the only monastery that will have me.

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