Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nay Aug Park

I am in the park. Nay Aug Park. The ground is gravel and grass and there are cars parked sideways and next to each other under shady trees. Mom takes us here to play. There is so much to see and do. Scattered among the trees are amusement rides, old rusty ones, painted red and yellow. We can’t run from one ride to the next because we might fall and scrape our knees on the jagged grey stones. Each ride is like a magnet, shiny and bright, pulling me closer, begging to be ridden. The one that calls to me the most is the one that spins so fast that you stick to the walls and the ground falls out and you feel like you are flying in outer space. And I can ride it lots of times without getting sick, more times than my brother. And my favorite part is to watch the people across from me as they’re splattered to the sides like bugs in a cage and the girl with the long blond hair, her hair looks like its standing straight up, like electricity is shooting through her, like lightening has struck her but really its just the gravity or the lack of it that makes a wild design like fire around her face.

And there are other rides too. Kiddie rides and grown-up rides. And almost from the beginning, I go on the grown-up rides. I always feel grown-up even though I’m not. Beyond the rides, in the shady grass, there is a train. Not a whole train, just part of a train, a big piece, a link in the chain. And it’s complete, in and of itself and my brother and I, we climb on it, and kids are allowed to climb on the train pieces because it’s part of the park. And there are more trees and more kids and not too far away is a pool. A pool so big it could hold 1000 people. A cement pool. A long rectangular pool. And sometimes it’s empty and sometimes its full. And sometimes we swim in it. And there are so many people when we swim in it that I can barely see the water. And mom swims with me and she’s gorgeous. She wears a strapless bathing suit and she floats in the water near the side by the metal ladder that people use to climb in and out of the pool. And I just stare at her. I don’t really think about the swimming. I just watch her and I probably do lots of underwater flips and ask her to watch me, too.

And when we’re not in the water, we’re in the grass. And there are large gazebos in the grass with cement floors and pointy tops like the tops on the carousel. And I think the gazebos are for bands, for people to watch but there is no band today so I dance in the gazebo. No one is watching. No one is around. I just dance. I dance to my own music. I pretend there is an audience. I pretend the whole world is watching. And I throw my arms out to the sides and I spin until I am dizzy. And I spin until the trees are blurry and I spin until the light and the trees and the leaves and the shadows are spinning around like the ride that spins so fast that you stick to the walls and the ground falls out.

There is another park by my house. It’s much smaller, about the size of a shoebox. Me and my brother can walk to this park because it’s only a block away and there is a jungle gym made of wood and a tire swing and sand. And it’s boring compared to Nay Aug Park so we try to make it interesting by doing things we’re not supposed to do. The boys dare me to jump off the jungle gym. It’s way high over my head and it hurts my feet to jump off but I do it anyway. I do it because the boys are watching and because they dared me to do it. The boys keep a Playboy magazine hidden in the bushes at the park and sometimes they show it to me. The magazine makes my little brother nervous. I can tell. He’s worried he’s gonna get caught and makes me promise not to say anything. My brother is always trying to get more Playboy magazines. He thinks it’s funny. I don’t know what the big deal is.

I’ve seen mom naked and she looks just like the ladies in the Playboy magazine. One time, when we were swimming in the pool at Nay Aug Park, mom’s boobs popped out of her bathing suit. I pointed at her top and she looked down. She was so embarrassed and she quickly put her top back on. She looked a little nervous and sweaty for a while afterwards and she kept checking her bathing suit top over and over to make sure it was on right.

Mom warns us about the gorge behind Nay Aug Park. She warns us over and over again not to go in the woods behind the pool. Every year, some kids go into the woods and drink some beers and fall off the cliff and die. I worry about the gorge. It’s like a giant monster lurking in the bushes behind the pool eating up kids. I worry about the kids going into the woods and drinking some beers and falling off the cliff. I wonder why they do that. My brother isn’t scared of the woods or the gorge or the cliff. He wants to go exploring. He likes the adventure. But I won’t go exploring with him. No way. I like the rides and the spinning and the swimming and being in the pool with mom. That’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not My Words

What another would have done as well, do not do it.
What another would have said as well or written as well, do not say or write it.
Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself.
— AndrĂ© Gide

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy… that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist…It is not your business to determine how good it is…It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,to keep the channel open.
— Martha Graham

As we write, we are both describing and deciding the direction that our life is taking.
— Julia Cameron

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I am in the church.

I am in the church. Holy Rosary church. The air around me is thick with chanting, with music, with incense. In every direction I am far away from something. Far away from the doors, the walls, the ceiling, the altar. The only thing I can touch is the wooden pew, the prayer book, the kneeling step with the soft leather cushion that folds up and down at my feet. I feel ultimately alone in a big space with important people and a reverence that is palpable. I lean to my left, to look around the white column that is much too thick to wrap my arms around, bigger than a big tree, and I peer down the aisle, the aisle of weddings and funerals and processions, the aisle of my communion, my confirmation, my mother’s death. The aisle is so long that it becomes narrow at the end like a painting painted in perspective, and the long narrow tip points to the mighty priest in his robes with his candles and his magic. He is the grand sorcerer, the magic man that came long before the characters in Harry Potter. He turns bread and wine into flesh and blood and I believe him and we all eat like cannibals and I don’t understand but it is the ritual and I am in it. And I sing because others are singing and I know the words by heart and I don’t even have to look in the hymn book anymore.

Here I am Lord
It is I Lord
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

And it must have been there in that moment that I discovered that all of God’s people belonged to me and they were all my responsibility and they were mine to protect, to care for, to save.

A withered bloody man stapled to wood hovers over me as if he is floating, as if he is connected to nothing, as if he is levitating by the magic power of the sorcerer.

Red blue yellow gold green frosty glass cut and carved into people, into stories on the gigantic windows, floor to ceiling along the walls from door to altar. There he is the withered man carrying a cross in the colorful cut glass. There he is the withered man being stalked and taunted by the people in the colorful cut glass. There he is the withered man being betrayed by his friends in the colorful cut class. There he is the withered man being hammered into a piece of wood in the colorful cut glass. There they are the people watching in the colorful cut glass. There we are the people kneeling before the colorful cut glass. He we are singing surrounded by the colorful cut glass.

There are letters. Latin I think. And numbers. Must be roman numerals. I try to read them. I try to count them but they are like hieroglyphics, an ancient language I don’t understand. He must know the secret to decoding the letters and numbers. There must be an explanation in his book of magic. He hovers over the book at the altar, raising his arms as he casts his spell on hundreds of us kneeling before him. He is blessing me. This is a blessing. I am being blessed. I am blessed. I eat. I drink. I kneel. I sing. I pray. I become one of them.

The pews are covered in a thick waxy coating. When we are standing, I scratch the coating off the pew in front of me with my fingernail. It makes lines like rivers, like veins in an autumn leaf. After the wax gathers under my fingernail, I scrape it out and start again. I don’t try to sign the pew with my initials like you would carve into a tree or draw a picture on the pew like you would draw with chalk on the sidewalk. I just scrape the waxy coating for no particular reason. I like the design n the wood, the lines and the circles and the life beneath the surface. I like the fact that I can touch the pew, feel the wax and feel the wood.

The space around me is so big, so thick with chanting, with music, with prayer. I know there are people around me but I don’t really see them. I’m not allowed to touch them or talk to them except for one brief moment mid-mass when the priest says:

Peace be with you. Now offer your brothers and sisters the sign of peace.

And we all turn and shake hands. And this terrifies me. I know when it’s coming. I know the whole mass by heart and I have to reach out and touch all the strangers around me and my palms are sweaty and I don’t know how I will shake everyone’s hand in the short time allotted to shake hands and there are some hands that I don’t want to shake but I shake them anyway because this is the prayer and this is the practice.

I feel a little bit warmer, a little bit more relaxed, and I settle back into myself and wait for the people around me to slowly fade away again, to drift away from me, leaving me alone in the empty pew, the big church, with nothing but my fingernail and the waxy coating that I scrape off the back of the pew.

It’s time to receive communion. We filter out of the pews and into the aisles. We walk quietly and orderly. The walking feels good. It makes me sleepy to sit so long. I follow slowly behind the people in front to me. I take my steps carefully because I don’t want to make a mistake. I count the people between me and the altar.


I am standing beneath him. He is tall. I am short. My hands are locked in the mudra I was taught, right hand cupped beneath the left hand. I raise my hands. He holds a circle of bread before me. We lock eyes and he says, “Body of Christ.” Everything seems to drop away. He is floating. I am floating. The bread slowly descends into my palm. I reach with my right hand into my left palm, take the bread and put it into my mouth. I am walking back to the pew, hands in prayer pose, but I can’t feel my hands, I can’t feel my feet, I can’t feel the walking. I can only feel the bread on my tongue and the way that it absorbs all the moisture in my mouth like a sponge, leaving my tongue dry and sticky. For a long time, I can feel nothing but my mouth and the bread dissolving on my tongue and I try to make it last as long as possible. It breaks into pieces and I savor each crumb until the last little bit has disappeared and even then I can still taste it as if it’s there, as if it never left my mouth.