Friday, March 25, 2016
GHOSTS OF GOOD FRIDAY
I wrote this in Texas a few years ago. It's a true story.
There's an intense loneliness in the windswept wastelands of West Texas. Ceaseless winds sweep across the eternal tumble of open spaces - - and if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the whisper of voices from a distant past. Ghost voices that echo faded memories and the fragments of long-lost days.
When I first came to West Texas I missed the intensity of spring - - a real spring with trees, flowers, and the ripe lushness of green. In the vast nothingness that surrounded me, I took pathetic delight in scattered clusters of tiny purple and yellow wildflowers that taunted me with the promise of Easter. They almost managed to quench the desperation of my romanticized thirst.
On this Good Friday, as I write, the wind is still sweeping over this sprawling wasteland. The day is a colorless abstraction of dust and the parched purgatory of obstinate drought...
......and I'm thinking of an Easter past, another Good Friday when I was driving solo on a weekend excursion near the Rio Grande: a particularly isolated area along the Mexican border. Almost without notice - and completely without warning - the eternal winds rose from a soothing murmur to a resounding shriek. I was caught in the midst of a dust storm, a sandstorm.
The vast desertscape was quickly shrouded in a suffocating veil of sandy dust. The setting sun was reduced to a blood-red smear on the edge of the horizon, everything was drenched in a surrealistic crimson glow.
I inched my way down the dangerously obscured highway, desperately searching for an unattainable escape. Mile after agonizing mile yielded nothing, until the eventual sight of an unpaved side road enabled me to exit the highway.
I'm not sure when I sighted the church - or was it a mission - looming like a half-hidden phantom in the smouldering twilight. I pulled near it and parked, thankful for the promise of shelter.
I entered the empty sanctuary, a blessed escape from the battering wind. I sat in the shadows of a back row pew, attempting to get my breath and regain my composure. I eventually began absorbing the serenity of my surroundings - - this ancient Mexican adobe relic in the midst of timeless desert sands.
The outside winds wailed with the uncertain lament of ghostly voices: moaning, whimpering, sometimes rising to shrieks in a taunting imitation of agony. And I was lulled into the shelter of semi-sleep, while thinking perhaps it is me who's really dead and they outside are still alive......
The power of imagination in a lonely place can do strange things. The voices in the wind were stirring memories, rekindling a warmth within my soul that assured me we are never truly abandoned. Gentle spirits of the past are always near.
I'm not Catholic. I'm not religious. I used to be fiercely religious long ago. Long ago....in another psychological place.....before the brutal reality of life chewed me up, spit me out, and left me with a fiercely impenetrable bitterness that could only be expunged through the sweetness of sin and the illusion of love.
Immersing myself in the fallacious shelter of hungry strangers.......quenching desperate physical needs while abandoning all semblance of emotional ones.....
Yet, in quiet moments of weakness, my wayward soul was sometimes comforted with the salvation of prayer and the thought that perhaps something far greater than our imperfect selves dares to exist.....
In that moment of abstract remembrance, I heard the distinct voice of a whisper that warmly grazed my ear - not the wandering wail of the outside wind, but rather a close clear voice that came from the intoxicating serenity of this cloistered room:
Los de su pasado son con usted.
My Spanish was rusty, yet - astonishingly and instinctively - I understood:
Those from your past are with you.
As I emerged from the shadowy distance of a dream, the dusky room slowly came into focus: the warmth of a glowing altar with flickering candles swimming in red cups, the distant shimmering crucifix of tarnished silver, the fragile white marble of forgotten saints frozen in eternal prayer......an ancient litany of redemption, salvation, forgiveness.........forgiveness.......
......and the soothing voices of those now dead, whom I love beyond the restrictions of mortal existence, are whispering to me - comforting, reassuring voices that seem to be in concert with the enormous resurrecting wail of the wind.
by Jon V.
written in Texas
on Good Friday, 2014