Monday, May 28, 2007

in the garden

I'm in Hendersonville, North Carolina... at Kanuga, an Episcopal Conference Center. I drove up with two dear friends from Jacksonville yesterday morning for a week of "Gardens and Grace". It's beautiful here, so far the weather has been delightful... slept with the window open under a lazy ceiling fan last night... awoke to birdsong early this morning.

It was an uneventful flight to Jacksonville, although I cut it pretty close at the airport. I say uneventful... that's in the general sense: no flight delays, not long waits in security lines, no lost baggage.

However, this trip has had nothing but unexpected events.

I heard music on the plane. I actually looked around to see if someone had a CD player going somewhere, but no, it was "in my head." Tintinnitus is a new development attached to my aging process. Some days I keep hearing our doorbell ring when it's not ringing, but I've never heard music before. It was amazing... a bit like electronic music in its vibratory nature, but a distinct series of four harmonic chords that repeated themselves three times and then the progression changed to a new line with five chords. Then it started over again. I tried to hum along with what I was hearing and when I did, a profound sense of peace tinged with some vague awareness suffused my body. Cool! Very cool! And then I saw them. (Music from twilight zone: doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo)

What I "saw" outside the window were little speckles of light darting about in random patterns... like fireflies only teensy weensy, much smaller, much faster. Cosmic little beings that I shouldn't have been aware of, yet was. Okee dokee, now not only do I hear things that are not there, but I see them. Nice going, Claire Joy. Maybe they were figments of my imagination, just like the music, but they were pretty wonderful. They looked... happy.

When I arrived in Jacksonville, my friend picked me up from the airport,and we headed for the beach, just long enough to have a quick lunch and for me to dunk my toes into the ocean for a moment. She understands my need for this ritual. I am saying hi to my mother, whose ashes were scattered in that very same ocean fifteen years ago. Any ocean will do, since they are all connected, but this one is where she went in, so to speak, so it is special. Memorial Day weekend is also when I found her after her final stroke, so the weekend itself is laden with memory. Next we stopped by the nursing home to see my friend's mother-in-law.

I've known Adelaide for several years. She's been in a nursing home for much of that time, and I always like to take time to visit if I can. Last year was the first year she didn't know me. Over the past year she's lost more and more of her faculties, and when I saw her Saturday afternoon I knew it was for the last time. The call came at 5:30 Sunday morning.

Would we cancel the trip to Kanuga? No, we would keep to our plans, but with some delay. The family, me and the parish priest gathered at 9:00 for prayers for the dead. A small chime had been brought and was struck gently at the conclusion of our prayers.

As we stood there in silence, I fidgeted... the note had vibrated something loose inside me and a song of praise and entreaty came to my lips: "Open the gates O God! Your daughter is returning. Come out to meet her, O Christ! Your sister has come home! Open your arms O saints and angels! One of your flock has been restored." I wanted to sing it... shout it... wail it to heaven. But of course, being a well-behaved nun (on vacation) I couldn't do any of that. So I took the little hammer and struck the chime three more times repeating the prayer in my head as I did.

Then we got on the road. I'm here. But I'm not quite grounded. I keep thinking of the music on the plane, the little quark-like fireflies, the song to heaven that shook loose in me when the chime sounded. I can't put it together, even though I understand intuitively it is all connected. Maybe in the garden I will be able to make some sense of it all.


Anonymous said...

Did you have any Pinot Grigio on the plane?

Pat said...

What a beautiful and mysterious narrative! At one point I thought you might say the chime and the music in your head were the same.

On the other hand, maybe it wouldn't hurt to have your eyes checked. That *could* be an early sign of a potential problem. Can't remember which - I think detached retina. On the other other hand, I see those lights in the shower and I don't have a detached retina. I get much of my inspiration from the shower - my own personal waterfall.

But mostly, what a beautiful narrative!

Claire Joy said...

I did not have pinot grigio on the plane... I had a bloody mary... :)

HeyJules said...

If you ever get the opportunity to come to my funeral, feel free to stand up and wail that puppy to heaven. I'd love it! (Not the being dead part...just hearing you sing!) :-D

kate said...

I second the concern re a neurological problem.

I have tinnitus--it's a high pitched ringing, no tones. and no visual disturbances.

so if these things recur, y'all should have them checked out.