Friday, October 17, 2008

Whose Woods

The dregs of the week. I sit and stare at my laptop as it displays the subject lines of 10 yet-to-be written progess notes. The clinic's empty and I've closed myself in the office. I hear the cleaning woman bustling outside the door. There is work to be done. I must write ten telegraphic vignettes of this afternoon's assorted little miseries: cough, rash, sore throat, earache, neck pain, back pain, sinus pain. Half asleep, I've brewed tea in a cup unwashed of this afternoon's instant coffee; it's sour and odd, much like me.

I have had far too little woodland time of late. The circus of Fall is fully underway, and I have barely landed in the cheap seats. The exhaustion of Friday afternoons segues straight into the angst and distaste of Monday mornings. All in a breath.

I stood outside a patient's door earlier this week working disinfectant foam into my hands, working up the will to knock and enter. Was I Pilate or Lady MacBeth ? And that novel by Beckett, the one where the character crawls literally and painfully across bleak landscapes for hundreds of pages -- why had it been playing in the background like bad existential muzak ? It made a wierdly dissonant counterpoint with this week's other earworm -- Orlando Gibbons' ravishing psalm setting: O spare me a little, before I go hence and be no more seen.

DK insists that it's my current bedtime reading that conks me out early these nights -- Sykes' and Booty's The Study of Anglicanism -- but I don't think it's as simple as a soporific text. There is something deeply attractive about the timeless levity of sleep. I think with envy of the long, mudbound, lakebottom winter's nap of turtles. Day -- still dark -- breaks lately like icewater thrown into the face. I wake creaky, and haggard, and disinclined.

I would, as the phrase goes, prefer not to.

But there was that moment last Sunday morning. I was sitting in the choir --the bare, ruined choir, but that's another, untellable story. Eucharist was over, the LEM was unlatching the altar gate, we'd sung the communion hymn, the organist was improvising in an interesting, modal manner, an ascending line, and suddenly I felt the ascent -- I felt something rising around me, something cool and quick, and bright and wavy -- probably some synaesthetic amalgam of the music and a blood pH raised by singing -- but I sat there, astonished, grateful, trying not to grasp -- and then it faded, and stopped.

I suppose I could call it something -- spirit, angel, visitation, revelation, theophany -- but I don't think I'll try to pin it down with a dull, rusty common pin of a word. Instead, I'll recall it here, Friday afternoon, empty clinic, work to be done, cheap clock ticking on the wall, too-bright fluorescents humming overhead -- as an icon of what I forget, and forget and forget again --

God is with us. Always. And everywhere. Amen.