Sunday, June 03, 2007

There's A Blaze Of Light In Every Word

Until recently, one moment in Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc made no sense to me. It all happens very fast, as we know it would not in real life, where suffering may seem to have no end. Joan is chained to the stake and the flames are rising. One tongue of flame scorches her face and she wrenches her head aside. In the next moment, she stares Heavenward, accepting, as fire consumes her. Then the girl is gone. Hallelujah.

This evening, a gentle rain falls, whispering and musical. The kittens have chosen windowsills at either end of the apartment, though they have several times switched sills for views and breezes. Whole wheat bread baked with a salt and sage crust, perfuming the living room; now pumkpin custard steams slowly in a bain marie. Last night, I made yogurt, and I have food for the week. On Friday evening, my hairdresser and cousin Carmelo offered glad tidings.

Carmelo: This weekend is the beginning of Gin & Tonic Season. I've just bought my bottle of Bombay Sapphire.
Tata: Oooh! You mention this in case I've been hunting without a license!

In two hours, Carmelo made that nest atop my head into a streaming vision of blond highlights falling in soft curls, but before we get there, we have to go back in time. Press Play and read on.

After work Friday and before my appointment, I cleaned the cat boxes, tossing the stinky litter into the dumpster, and with the garbage went my keys. I stood there for a minute; I stood there for an hour, wanting someone to fix this for me. When that didn't happen, I stared at my keys. Then I threw my head back and laughed. The thing was nearly empty. I jumped up, threw a leg over, and dropped inside. Neighbors, standing some yards away and staring, all stopped talking. I threw my keys over the wall to the street. Then I jumped back out, cleaned up and changed clothes, and went to the salon. When told of my adventure, Carmelo smiled but did not laugh. He said, "Thank God you don't smell." I looked around but there was no film crew.

That was the day Carl's father passed away, which shocked me. It didn't seem right so soon after my father died that anyone else should suffer as we did, though everyone hurts and few of us see it coming. So as bad as I felt Friday, I felt worse Saturday reading that Steve Gilliard was dead. For me, this felt like a last straw, and I stood in my kitchen, sobbing about a person with whom I'd exchanged a few emails, but whose common sense and insight had long felt to me like a smooth worry stone and a bright crystal ball. The long night of pain was over for one starry soul. Hallelujah. Then I set up bread dough, which did not rise.

This morning, I got up early because I don't sleep anymore and went to Costco. My shelves were little ghost towns, scenes of unchanging emptiness. I walked through the aisles, blank and staring, picking up things I needed and passing others. Something burned out of me and cast itself on the wind. I knew this when I picked up tapenade and heard myself singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, a song I didn't know I knew, out loud in the refrigerator aisle. These lives well-lived, these people fall in light, and out come these words of sorrow and benediction. Hallelujah. I did not fight the sensation of walking through the warehouse store with a spotlight over my newly-blond head, and I sang quietly without a thought to what anyone else might think. It was as if I were the only one there, in this cloud of white light with my grief and loss -
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

- and of course, the tapenade is a little salty.



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