Being awake by yourself at 3am is actually a really lovely experience-- sometimes. If the night is cozy, and not filled with strange noises of hypothetical home intruders, or police sirens blaring by your window, or cold winter winds, then it is a very nice time to lie in bed awake. For a few minutes, at least.
If your room is the right temperature, if you know that this is just an awakening that results not from insomnia, but from the thunderstorm outside, if you are content, then 3am in the comfort of your own pillows can be a lovely time indeed.
If you feel yourself settle back into the sheets, and listen to the rain fall on your air conditioning unit, and watch the water droplets coalesce on your window pane, you feel like you are part of some quiet moment in the middle of the earth's journey. There is life happening outside, and nature keeps rolling on outside your window, but subdued by night. Nature draped in quiet.
I lie awake, and I count the seconds of dead air between the flash of light above the trees and the slow roll of thunder. There are a lot of seconds of dead air.
I imagine this lightening is touching down somewhere down the Jersey shoreline. My mind wanders down the shoreline as well, and slowly back to sleep.
It is startling to witness such a dramatic moment of life and death.
My nose, I discover, is bloody this morning. Probably from the barometric fluctuations outside.
It feels dry and desiccated, and the air is tinged with the faint iron smell of blood. Generally, I am not prone to nose-bleeds, so this is a curious novelty. I examine the white tissues stained with red. I wonder if nose bleeds are a symptom of anything more serious than a cold front coming through.
--I was dressed in white, but not a wedding dress. And my mother and I were setting out dishes in a church basement. We were preparing lots of food for my wedding, which was imminent. The hall was filling up with all the sorts of people I would never invite to my wedding: my students, the witch doctor who lives down the block, the homeless man without legs with the kindest face I've ever seen, co-workers, loose acquaintances, and the patchwork quilt of faces I pass on the subway.
I dreamt one night about my groom-less wedding feast.
All these people started to eat the food that we had set out. And of course, I didn't stop them. Because the friends I was waiting for, all the invited guests, hadn't shown up yet, to my annoyance. But you don't turn people away from a feast. Whoever is here is entitled, I suppose, to what is provided.
I was about to put out a small sign, a little placard, asking the guests to save some of the feast for the loved ones who hadn't arrived yet. I turned, to find that all the food was gone.
I remember being sort of ticked off that we had run out of food, and annoyed that my people were running late, but not unhappy with the motley crew of attendees that had arrived. My father held me close and planted a kiss on my forehead. And I said (with gladness), This isn't the wedding I expected to have, but it's a good one, nonetheless.
There are small moments, grand particularities in a day, that bring my breath to a halt. The other day, at mass, the priest bent down during the sign of peace to kiss the chalice.
Perhaps all priests do that, and I have just been particularly poor at noticing the gesture.
But it was that simple kiss of peace, delivered to the receptacle holding the body of Christ that attuned me to the beauty of the mass that I had been letting wash over me, without attending to it.
But that kiss was a kiss of pure tenderness and reverence. It was a kiss of sheer belief and devotion. It was a gentle, humble act of oblation. And I hope that all my acts of worship are that sincere, that self-giving, and arresting in their unaffected love. Although I am surrounded by trees full of lush fuchsia blooms and decadent white petals, I have not seen a more beautiful sight yet this spring than the elderly Dominican bending down to kiss the golden cup.
When we wake up at 3am, all the dreams that we have just created in our heads are so real. They swim around us in the dark, mixing with old memories, and blurred images of the past.
I lay awake in my bed, thinking of my unexpected wedding feast.
I imagined how many times a day that I withhold my best self from the people in my immediate vicinity. I think that I will save it for my people. That I will save my best love and best self for the people who love and understand me best. That I fall short of giving all my love and kindness, all my attention and presence to each person that I encounter, to whomever is sent into my path to meet and love. I can be so choosy about who I will love and when.
But the wedding feast is not invitation-only. It is always open, if only I will show up. it is always there, waiting for me. And if I live my life like that wedding feast, I will find that it is never the feast that I have expected, with none of the participants I had anticipated. But it will be very good, nonetheless.