act of faith

Learning outcomes for today:

  1. all clergy tailors should have tattoos, piercings, and a healthy sense of the absurdity of clerical shirts.
  2. being measured by someone who simply doesn’t care who you are or what the tape measure says is liberating
  3. it is much more fun to hunt for clergy-shirts in pairs (especially with someone who does not habitually wear black)
  4. some clerical outfitters have a very good sense of what their customers want and are skilled at giving it to them.
  5. nonetheless, there is no reason on God’s good earth that a clerical outfitter should stock a pale-pink poly-cotton, with silver-glitter butterflies.
  6. the A1 is not the M1.  Forget this at your peril.


Who knew that in just 45 minutes, I could drive all the way to 1979?

It began with a scent.  I was walking rather purposefully towards the last punnet of blackberries, and I was stopped short by a sudden sweetness in the air.  Elusive.  Familiar.  And then, amidst some tiny box-hedge and scraggy greens, I saw it:  one perfect regal face, in purple velvet.  A stubborn pansy ready to do battle with winter.

I have learned to overlook pansies.  Truth be told, I tend to resent British pansies.  They are so ubiquitous.  They are so long lasting.  The pansies of my childhood bounced their way through March winds, then withered in exhaustion (like me) with the first hint of summer heat.  There was a pansy farm near our house on a pretty old road by a river, and as soon as I was old enough to be trusted to remember that a carpet of pansies was for looking and not walking, I would be sent up and down the narrow dirt paths to pick my favourite colours.  I had forgotten how wonderful pansies smell, and how beautiful they are if you can see past the kitsch.

The next retro-smell was not so pleasing.  All over town, every shop I entered smelled vaguely of wet wool, mouldy books, and mothballs.  Now, it is true that half the building in sight were charity shops, where one might expect a certain je-ne-sais-quois of mothball.  But I didn’t go into the charity shops — tempted neither by the caramel coloured leather jacket, nor the glossy book on Cliff Richard.  No.  I was in the department store and the post office and the book shop, and even (briefly) in McKays.  All had the same smell and seemed essentially unchanged for decades.

My tour of 1979 reached its zenith in the cafe:  a vegetarian restaurant that I felt duty bound to support, but which offered nothing more exciting than a cheese and onion toasty.  Or so I thought.  I sat there, sipping weak tea and admiring the bold combination of micro-floral, mint-green, maxi-skirt and lavender striped sweater at the next table.  I listened to a slightly surreal conversation about how much cheese is the right amount of cheese in a cheese scone.  Then, my plate arrived.  Beside the toasty was a small salad: ice-berg lettuce, carrot shreds and green pepper.  Then I saw it, poking out from under a leaf:  a radish, perfectly quartered so that the bright red would not offend.

The waitress looked at me conspiratorially.  In a breathy voice that suggested we might try something illicit, she said, ‘shall I bring you some salad cream for that?’.
My joy was complete.

remembering the unremarkable

I feel embarrassed every time I talk about what it was like that day.  I know it is a non-story.  Uninteresting.  Unimportant.

Yet every once in a while, I find myself speaking of it, embarrassment overcome by compulsion.  So it was today.  I remembered it was September 11th, and instinctively switched on the radio to make sure that no new corner of the world was burning.  Then the memories came, so strong I missed my turning and tasted bitterness in my mouth.

I remember sitting with those who had loved ones in the air,
worrying, wondering, waiting.
I remember the way the tower shimmered before it fell,
beautiful, terrible, incomprehensible.
I remember the sudden intake of breath as we sat on the convent roof
and heard a plane overhead when all were grounded;
the vulnerability of the city exposed.

Most sharply of all, I remember the stretching and folding of time as I drove home.  The highway barren, save for a few erratic drivers going 80, then 40; not meaning to have changed speed at all.  We none of us should have been driving — confused and distracted, the concept of safety lost.

Somewhere along the line I found myself riding with a grey volvo, holding steady at 60.  I’m not sure who started it, or how we knew, but we began to take turns leading.  One of us would set the pace so that  the other rest in the illusion of a stable environment.  When concentration wavered, we would swap; leading, following, remembering, forging ahead.

We played leap frog all the way to Hartford, then waved goodbye as I peeled off on I-91.

It is a non-story, uninteresting and unimportant.  But it is also the truth of that day:
two strangers meeting in silence, learning to work together in order to survive.

requiem aeternam dona eis, domine


Obama’s having a hard time.    There’s a long but interesting article in The New York Times Magazine about the gap between hopes and reality in his administration.  I think people are giving him a hard time for nothing.  They liked the sound of big visions, but forgot that one person could not deliver that alone, and that even with a crowd, change does not come without pain and the passing of time.

From there, I stumbled across the New York Time’s summary of the tea party, which includes a gallery of video clips of people explaining why they support the tea party.  It’s interesting.  I suspect one could play ‘spot the episcopalian’, but suppose one should not.

And all of that made me think of this.  (sigh)