I’ve gone rounds in my head (with myself) for how to begin. For where to begin, to if I should begin. I’ve finally given in, decided that I must open a vein even as I sit here in my comfortable chair, full of left over emotion that keeps leaking out of my eyes. I’m going to teach my people tomorrow about what the church believes about paranormal activity, about exorcism, and a small teaser is that a poltergeist is real, and is usually somehow emotion leftover from a major and traumatic event. I could move a sideboard, a dining room table, a TV, and half wonder how that hasn’t happened yet.
There is a book called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. In the book our heroine is a girl of about 13, named September, for the season of autumn, for the death that many living things experience, the letting go; for the age of 13, which involves so many small deaths too. So much letting go that we aren’t even aware of at the time. A sudden aversion to dolls, to imaginary games, to all things silly. Those are deaths, they are things let go of that will not return.
September meets the Green Wind one day when he rides in on a leopard to take her to fairyland. She leaves the china tea cup she was washing, and even loses a shoe as she is whisked away to her destiny, or at least to figuring out who she is, and what she is made of; what she can do.
I felt sort of like September today, and if I am honest, I feel like her quite often. September is turned away by the powers that be, she is told she isn’t enough or isn’t doing it right, she frightens with her precocious vision of another world. September ends up sailing out of fairyland in a ship made of driftwood bound together with hair pulled from her head, and with a sail that is made of her dress – because, you see, she already had everything she needed to go, she just needed to be stripped over everything to realize that. I realized today that there is deep soul work to be done, forgiveness to be given, wounds that must heal if I am to work and live among some of these people.
Today I listened to a dear friend take his priestly vows, I listened as the Bishop spoke to him in Spanish, listened as he answered. And I wrote in my bulletin, deeper in. And then, there’s no going back now. Even as my friend stood in his white alb for the last time, shaking as he answered the questions posed. My friend kneeled then, and was surrounded by clergy who laid hands on him as the choir started to sing, veni, sancte spiritus – come, holy spirit.
And the spirit came.
I suppose I keep leaking tears, keep losing my voice when I speak, continue to lose myself in the memory of John prostrate on the floor where I have stood thousands of times — this is happening because its hard to put into words what happened. But you know me and so you know I will try.
Four pews worth of priests came forward and they surrounded John. John wept. The choir sang, louder and louder as Jose sang the verses, craning to see Nick at the piano as he stood and played and directed all at once. Many dropped out at different points, so overcome by emotion that they (we, I) could not keep singing. I looked out at the people and saw so many tears, so many still faces, so many beloved people truly experiencing something that can’t be explained easily. So many people listening.
When you call the spirit you should be wary. Because the spirit will come.
My experiences with this have not really varied until today. There is the experience of being chased, tracked down, hunted; finally caught and tackled, of hearing the spirit shout in my face. The experience of a candlelit Kyrie breaking something inside of me. There is a memory of police, of sitting at my dining room table weeping into a cup of tea and talking to my mother. The experience of formation, of education, the laying down of what I thought I was, of who I thought I was made or meant to be. There was leaving the music. And I know that a time will come where I close that choir folder for the last time, hang up my black cassock and my surplice for good as I move deeper into the love of God; deeper in to who I am called to be.
There is a John Donne poem that says, in part, Batter my heart, three person’d God…Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
But today the spirit whispered, caressed. Today I was brought to tears by vulnerability and tenderness. Today I listened and I heard a different tone of voice, I heard an invitation instead of a command.
Do not mistake me, I still feel like September. I am standing at the sink and washing the same cup for the millionth time and longing for a word, longing for a sign. Wanting to know if there is anybody out there. But I feel as though I’ve put the cup down in the scented soapy water and gone out the door. I feel as though I am standing in the street looking at the lake while the wind whips my hair around in face in a strange golden light – I feel as if any moment a small man dressed in green and riding a leopard may roll up to whisk me away.
I watched Deacon Beth today as she set the table and cleared it too, I watched her send us out into her world to do the work of justice and mercy we are all called to. And I longed to be in her place even as I longed for the still and stale smelling halls of the place I go for school once a month. I longed to prostrate myself next to John, to hold his hand and offer him a tissue even as I longed for the space of a classroom where I continue to be raised up, challenged and formed.
I know that I am not ready yet, but I am coming. Dear God I am coming. Not in a Messiah complex way, but in a September way. A girl missing a shoe and stripped to nothing.
Here I am.
I love you still.
Even when you batter my heart and test my patience, even when you scoff at my will and my call. I am forgiving you. I will be that good.
“Of course not. No one is chosen. Not ever. Not in the real world. You chose to climb out of your window and ride on a leopard. You chose to get a witch’s Spoon back, and to make friends with a wyvern. You chose to trade your shadow for a child’s life. You chose not to let the Marquess hurt your friend–you chose to smash her cages! You chose to face your own Death, not to balk at a great sea to cross and no ship to cross it in. And twice now you have chosen not to go home when you might have, if only you abandoned your friends. You are not the chosen one, September. Fairyland did not choose you–you chose yourself. You could have had a lovely holiday in Fairyland and never met the Marquess, never worried yourself with local politics, had a romp with a few brownies and gone home with enough memories for a lifetime’s worth of novels. But you didn’t. You chose. You chose it all. Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.”