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 




12 comments:

  1. Jon, thanks for this very well-written personal essay. Gave me something excellent to read after overdoing on tree-trimming today. I forget I'm aging sometimes and must turn in early on Good Friday. Yesterday I was more sensible and now declare that "Not Bad Thursday". Hope your weekend is pleasant, as I hope mine is restorative. All my best wishes for a beautiful springtime.

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  2. I applaud you for being courageous enough to comment. Long, tedious blog posts are a sure-fire way to repel readers. I should probably rant more.....

    I also applaud you for declaring "Not Bad Thursday". We need more encouraging days of the week. I hope your Easter weekend will be restful and rejuvenating.

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  3. just didn't know what to say about this one, jon. the thought of you in church...as bad as me in a church; h8ful places.

    question: why does everyone assume I celebrate easter? I don't. it's chocolate egg day and marshmallow chicks day. other than that, it's just another fucking day. yes, I have had a few drinks tonight...

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    1. Well, I was only in church for shelter from the dust storm.

      And the only reason I like Easter is for the candy. I usually buy it the day after, when it's on sale.

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  4. Eloquent words need no response. HAPPY EASTER.

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    1. I appreciate that. Have a wonderful Easter.

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  5. Now this is a huge change of pace. But none the less a powerful post and one of lifes great moments. We went to my grandmothers grave today....we were very close. Easter was her favorite holiday. While there a flood of memories came back, things I hadn't remembered in ages. It was a gift from her I could tell. Moments like these I feel are needed for time to time.....thanks you for sharing your moment

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    1. Grandmothers seem to be synonymous with Easter. My grandmother loved Easter, too. She died when I was sixteen but I still have fond Easter memories of her.
      Somehow, the people that we loved and lost (in death) always seem to speak to us - in their own private ways.

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  6. Excuse me also. I appear to have had some gin.

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    1. Heck, I don't believe it (*smile*)

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  7. (Sorry for being tardy ... I wasn't in a position to comment when I first read this.)
    The dust storm you describe sounds eerily akin to our haboobs; terrifying, indeed.
    Your description of taking refuge in that adobe chapel is so vivid ... then the climax, hearing 'those from your past are with you." Wow. I don't know which came first -- goosebumps or my watery eyes. How incredibly blessed to hear those words!

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    1. After re-reading this post, I wouldn't know what the hell to say in a comment.

      I never knew what a Haboob was until I moved to Texas. They are truly incredible...and unforgettable. Somehow they lend a wild romanticism to my imagination.
      Thanks for appreciating my humble words. It means a lot.

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