Saturday, April 25, 2009

The S. S. Nameless

It has been nigh upon a week since I have plugged my retinas in to the world wide web. This past week has been a hodgepodge of going to work and catching up with all the work on the home front. The circadian tasks of mowing, hoeing, planting, and watering have given the gift of a slow two-step to my hesitant bones. It's spring, says creation to my senses. Put your fingers in the dirt.

I've felt rather thinly spread as of late. My chores are piling up like little dragons that want slaying. So, in the interest of slowing down, putting my nose to fewer grindstones, writing, and gardening, here is a vignette I jotted down recently.

I am inescapably American. It crops up in my nagging addiction to conveniences. Like microwaves and the internet, my default timeframe shouts, "Now!" like Veruca Salt at a toy shop. So, after expending a great deal of time and energy riding my bicycle and the bus to work (not to mention mooching countless rides from friends, neighbors, and my dear longsuffering wife), you can imagine my elation at buying a new car. A couple of old friends had a nameless land yacht sitting around, waiting for the world to turn. So we, in the interest of expediency, put down some money towards it. But the convenience began to go to my head.

I was able to fit more into my days. Long jaunts to rehearsals across town no longer conjured up visions of me pedaling for hours, dodging angry motorists with an accordion strapped to my back. So, I gladly accepted invitation after invitation, and forgot the hidden graces and quiet blessings of a necessary longevity - of a requisite patience. O, to ride the bus and spare oneself the ability to arrive faster by racing harder. O, to sit on those rumbly seats in the din-full corridors of public transportation and meet people who hail from the distant planets next door. I met clowns and paupers and clergymen and politicians. I was given a finger on the pulse of the city, a cross-section of the virtue, vice, and vitriol that ran through the hearts of all my neighbors. Would that I could also refuse engagements out of mere necessity. "No, I'm sorry," I would say, "I have no way to get there." And then I would tend to flowers and vegetables, or bake bread or write poetry or music.

But now we have a second car - a nameless Oldsmobile chugging gasoline across every mile. I shall be a great deal more thankful when there is a carseat in the back and convenience plays host to the need of taking the kids to their grandparents' house. But there are good sides to it already. Its wide seats have seen hitchhikers. Its power windows have been lowered to feel the wind as the city's cadence blew in to my ears. And the drive back home from work is worlds away from a two-hour commute after eight hours of slinging coffee. In all honesty, I will have to learn to manage my time more prudently (including my Sabbaths). I'm going to need to practice my "No." This new car (new to us) wants christening. I'm thinking of calling it Nimitz.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Even All Things

Easter morning, I awoke to the lilting sound of mockingbirds enshrining the backyard in song. The sun, soft and golden in the cold clean air of the dawn, whispered his temporal light through the bedroom curtains.

"Arise, and know that he is risen."

I've never been one to enjoy a holiday. To me, the celebration and circumstance has usually outshone (or overshadowed) the essence of the occasion. But this morning, I awoke to the earth quietly rejoicing in his name. I kissed my sleeping wife and left before eight, almost giddy at the prospect of lending organ and accordion to the music at Greg Adkins' church. Ever since the church acquired a Hammond B-3 with a Leslie cabinet, I've been almost jittery in anticipation of playing there. For one thing, I worship better with an instrument beneath my fingers. For another, I think that both my accordion (Mabel is her name) and the Hammond are resurrection stories in themselves. The organ is actually on loan from Danny Rosenbaum, a fellow whose name crops up now and then in conjunction with other old New City Cafe names. But the organ itself predates Danny. It predates my parents. Its story is one that I do not know, but it indeed has a story to tell. This year, that story entered the chapter of resurrection.

Mabel also predates my parents. Who knows her history? She hails from Italy, and certainly languished in at least one garage or attic in her time (probably several, truth be told), wondering when she would again find her voice. She found her way to my mother-in-law's music classroom at the hands of a man who simply didn't want the thing taking up space anymore. I fixed a couple of keys, and she has new straps. And again, through the radio and over the internet, she has traversed great distances and played in the hearts of people. A new chapter, resurrection.

May we, the languishing, the dead, the overspent, find new birth at his hands. May he grant that we should be the tools of his workmanship. May the songs we bear extend from his heart.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Longest Saturday

9 a.m. rolled out of the western sky on Good Friday and reminded us all what it was like on that ancient day. The sky darkened and furled its brow, lightning cackled back and forth and a gale caught up the torrents of rain and tossed them sideways. The earth itself remembered the death of its maker as twisters sauntered around the southeast. And then, there came Saturday.

The long day, when those few huddled behind locked doors and their world – our world – stood at a dead and apathetic calm. Too fearful and too shocked to venture forth, I can only guess at their stunted conversations and waxen stares. The weather seemed to oblige us again today, with clouds gazing ambivalently from a directionless sky. The sun has occasionally snuck a peek from his high castle keep before hiding again. The world both hangs in wait and buzzes onward with its forgetful motion. How it must have seemed then. Rome went about its business. The Pharisees remembered their Sabbath, mostly in the pompous manner they had kept with for so long. Ships came and went at Tarshish. Pagan merchants caravanned across the Negev. But a few dour faces in Jerusalem waited in the dark doldrums of their grief.

Across town now, the mall drones with activity. The interstate is a whirlwind of trucks and travelers dodging the glaring orange barrels. People buy and sell, eat and drink. But some deep part of all creation still waits for tomorrow.