Sunday, October 5, 2014

my only desire

There is great joy in a Sunday afternoon in Central Park, reading in the fading golden sunlight of the autumn afternoon. Resentfully, I had thought that autumn in the City would not hold a candle to autumn at Notre Dame or fall in Minnesota. But, as I walked through the park, I noticed golden leaves, tipped with scarlet underneath my feet. Okay maybe, I thought, this place is beautiful.

There is great joy in watching the pigeons hopping down the steps of the Met Museum. They were so joyful as gravity pulled them from one granite step to the next. Their plump little bodies were shaking from the force of their fall. Fluttering in the breeze, their feathers rustled in a tuneful accompaniment to their jiggling bodies. They seemed to be engaged in a great game: falling from step to step, enjoying themselves immensely.

There is great joy in listening to the Dominicans at St. Vincent Ferrer chant their vespers. Just the other day, there were only two of them: one man on either side of the choir, tucked so cozily in their choir stalls. Together, they sang, in a rusty, hearty rasp: Hooooly Goood, we praaaaaaiiisee thy naaaame. And they were, most effectively. As they chanted their psalms, their voices rose to the dark rafters of the chapel, and faded into the dark mystic silence. From across the nave, their words faded into a gentle hum, like the bleating of a herd of sheep. In their clean white wool habits, the two old men, faces chiseled with years of thought, smiles, and tears, looked like very gentle, wise lambs. Beloved sheep of the good shepherd, certainly.

There is great joy in people-watching in the small lady chapel of the large, ornate church. This lady chapel is very unimpressive. It is simple, wooden, and one of the carved mahogany figurines in the altar panel is a St. Rene. Renée/Rene reppin'. Dig it. There is this woman who always sits next to me in the left-hand front row, or in the row directly across from me. I call her The Rich Young Woman. She is not young, she is middle-aged. The only word to describe her lululemon-clad figure is svelte. Her expression is indecipherable. She is aloof, decidedly. But also there's a certain aura of wistfulness about her, as I feel the Rich Young Man must have had as well. A very keen sense of things eternal, beyond all the things temporal she has truck with each day. She seems to approach the altar with a sadness, a sense of something lacking. Yet with a confidence that daily entrances me.

There is joy in Sunday nights of cookies and milk in cozy living rooms on cuddly couches with the roommates, watching Call the Midwife. Between the sensational episodes of childbirth happening in living rooms, sheds, and public toilets, there are moments of simple and sweet beauty. Particularly, the scene where two of the nurses bathe an elderly woman, whose body and mind are still so scarred from her time in the workhouse. As they bathe this woman, slowly transforming her exterior to match her interior dignity, the simple advent hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel plays contemplatively in the background.

There is joy here. There is joy now. Joy is not in the future--anticipation, or in the past--nostalgia.
It is now.

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