Maybe this weedy vocation of mine has something to do with making the invisible visible. Now don't get me wrong: there is an upside to invisibility. I am an long-time practitioner of the art. Small, solitary, quiet, gray-haired, drab -- the world passes right through me in its drive toward the next new, bright thing.
And why should the vast, sociable, babbling and brightly spandex-clad citizens, their clever, hungry babies in screeching tow, stop to notice a common weed, battered to the edge of non-being by a long winter ? After all, spring is fast upon us. Already the yellow banners of the witch hazel have prefigured the cold yellow of the forsythia, and then there's no stopping the riotous flowering-forth.
So be it, and it is a good and seemly thing, and yet time after time I return to the tangled and thorny vacant fields on the grounds of the shuttered asylum where the new and the old mingle in companionable invisibility. Last Saturday I returned with a small agenda. On my last excursion I'd lost my hat. Realizing it late in my visit, and too tired and cold to retrace my steps, I reasoned that it would still be there, likely snagged from my pocket by a thorny rosa multiflora branch, when I returned.
I apologized inwardly to my hat for my abandonment. I tend to ascribe an odd and usually melancholic sentience to inanimate objects and my lost hat was no exception. And as the weeks passed --weeks of rain and wind and snow -- I confess I rather forgot about the thing. I even (oh faithless me) bought a new hat in an even drabber color, olive green. So when the weather lightened and the dead weeds next called, I decided to return to scene of the crime.
The day was milder than usual, but not warm. I noticed that someone had pried the board off one of the old administration building windows, and went up the rotting concrete stairs past the towering graffitied columns to look in. It was, of course, pitch black; a musty cold wind seemed to blow from within, and I could (standing on tiptoe) almost make out enormous numbers on a wall.
But that was not my mission. I headed toward the smashed chainlink surrounding a trash-strewn little brook behind the building. The ranks of towering, hive-like condominiums erected on the old asylum site threatened to disgorge their flocks of cheerful citizens into their healthful Saturday pursuits, but I was in little danger of being overtaken. We recently watched Andrej Tarkovsky's Stalker: I realized that mine were the landscapes of The Zone -- vacant lots, ruins, broken temples into which rain and snow is always falling, and over which a deep, forlorn religious melancholy hangs like a fog.
Religious melancholy. A few miles east, Piskie clergy and laity are gathered to elect a new Bishop. Some delegates are live-tweeting the event under the hashtag #Diomass, an twitter stream that's an oddly miscible admixture of gently ironic snark and sincere invocations of the Holy Spirit. You might guess wherein my own affinities lie.
Bishop Tom Shaw, an SSJE brother who has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer, is retiring. He's awesome, not least for being a celibate monk; having someone with the gravitas of a monastic as Bishop has been an anchor for me in my conflicted sojourn among the Piskies. The other two bishops that I have experienced have been over-prone to whipping out guitars and/or insisting on chipper sing-alongs.
I watched the walkabout interview videos of the seven candidates. Much to my chagrin the candidate that seemed most delightfully engaging (and who was said to have recited George Herbert's "Love" at another session) pulled a singalong during his taped interview. I groaned inwardly, trying to forgive, trying to keep the others straight.
Of course, I have no vote, which is just as well. My criteria (judging from my reactions to the videos) are, at best, suspect, at worst simply silly. I liked the candidate who changed "Damascus moment" to "Emmaeus moment." I wanted another candidate to be my Mom. One candidate's hand gestures annoyed me, as did another's soul-bearing; one's curly hair distracted me, and one I seemed to keep forgetting. And they're all upstanding family men and women, full of piety and administrative acumen, and none are monks. And none of them at all mentioned weeds.
And then there's the matter of the Archbishop. No, not the presiding Bishop (whose squishiness has also annoyed me), but the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, Justin Welby, ex-oilman and evangelical, now at the helm of the thing called the Anglican Communion. At least Rowan Williams, for all his wafflings, had theological and scholarly gravitas. And kick-ass eyebrows. The new dude, yesterday, claimed that gay marriage must not be allowed in the Church of England because it will cause Africans to kill African Christians in the belief that that the Christians will "turn them into homosexuals," referencing a mass grave of 369 Christians in South Sudan, all supposedly killed for that reason, and referencing other gravesides of African Christians where he'd stood, of people "attacked because of something (ecclesial) that had happened in America."
That may have been my own Damascus moment with respect to organized religion.
(Emmaeus man on the first ballot, but a long way to go.)
So, long story short, I found my hat, better than new after its multiple immersions, hanging out to dry on a branch by the dirty brook. And long story short, it's Lent and I am falling head over heels into what's becoming my yearly Lenten apostasy.
But as lost and invisible as I become, I will always have a home among the weeds.