Thursday, August 02, 2007

Every kind of thing...

One way, and then another.

In his sermon this past Sunday, our summer seminarian Matt reminded us of the news that is not news: that God is here. Here and now. Bemused, he is, by the not infrequent testimonies of the faithful to God’s having “shown up” in our midst, belying the obvious notion that it is impossible for God to show up where she ain’t never left.

Not a new notion, as we all know, and as we invariably have to remind ourselves: I have been among the loudest repeatedly to excoriate a God who was quietly about her business of waiting upon me to finish my latest in a series of pobrecito mini-dramas about her infernal leaves of absence. In that, I am Benedictine and Bill Murray’s Phil Connors to the core: every day is a new beginning; every day is Groundhog Day.

I was a good halfway down that same road all over again today, marveling (not four days after the good Matt’s reminder) at a “gently” “growing” “sense” of “God’s” “presence.” And a decidedly prosaic day it was: morning rummage to prep my son for his summer camp, out the door and through the natural arbor on the way to the car, crackly and completely unnecessary radio frazzle, son-chatter from the back seat, quick zip down a favorite alternate route to the camp, workers at the mansions on the grand avenue readying for the day’s heave, long-ago Margaret’s bicycle commute, and then, quick as a rattlesnake bite, red white and blue lights twirling in my rear view mirror: “Thirty-seven in a thirty, sir.” Documents passed through the open window, he walks back to his vehicle: my son frets his late arrival, I fret briefly about a most unwelcome and unneeded expense, but am able to decide and implement the decision to just chill out and relax. About thirty seconds later, my “arresting officer” hands me back my license, delivers my verbal warning, and wishes me a good day.

Certainly not “fool enough” to attribute my release to God’s showing up, but I was still barreling down my highway notion of her “seeping” in, right through the school drop-off, waiting in a veritable methadone clinic-sized line for coffee at Central Market, plopping down for 20 minutes of Aubrey/Maturin, quick call to welcoming Louise at my place of employ, Tina-kiss as she heads out the door, Laurel and Hardy fool-dogs in the street (medium-sized black mutt and, hilariously, a fawn Old English mastiff, wandering the street) as I take blue dog Blue out for his constitutional, and back for 30 minutes of the increasingly moving middle to late passages of Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Not until I am rounding the back end of Sam Walton’s dime store, sweat beginning to pool under my shirt on the way to the bus stop, not until then does it hit me that I am off and running towards a big “God has arrived” celebration in my soul, through all this day’s meandering inner tube ride down a pass of Class 1, nary a bump, river water.

What was percolating up was this growing sense of “promise.” “Good news.” “Things breaking through,” as the good Lord sought me out, for whatever her purposes. Annunciation dropped firmly into place just south of Tire and Lube: “Listen, bud: this is what standing in the garden feels like all the time”: God’s undertow (Garp’s Under Toad, only on the sublime side), the constant thread, the bread crumbs on the path, the staccato ching of the paleta man’s neighborhood cart. As often as we wander off and back, she’s far too hep to crack wise with “Where ya been?” “How ya been?” is more like it, popping a butter pecan paleta in the prodigal kisser before any inane chatter gets going.

And then another:

It took a couple of years for me to get there: I wasn’t even sure I would: there was never any compelling reason provided: but, get there I did, over the last few days, watching serial snippets of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

It maundered for a while: a craggier than craggy Tommy Lee, the surprise of Melissa Leo, Dwight Yoakum’s acting all in the shoulders hunched up to his ears, and Barry Pepper’s particularly vile toe hygiene in front of his living room TV, but godalmighty did Tommy Lee “get” the ease of that relationship between Pete and Mel, something I saw time and again between my uncles and Jesus, Ignacio, and even Modesto, and countless folks who just showed up, while passing through. Got that, too: Melquiades appearing out of nowhere in a barn doorway, Pete with the language to smooth the transition, pave the welcome. Grim, seedy surroundings, but lush cinematography when Mel rhapsodizes to Pete about his little village of Jimenez, back in the mountains of Coahuila.

It took a while, slow learner, for me to recognize that we’d been here before, as Tommy Lee’s Call hauled Duvall’s Gus all the way back to Texas from Montana in Lonesome Dove, but it didn’t take away, just threw another nice fresh load of guano into the compost.

It’s when the film narrows in on Pete and Mike that the story deepens, and I felt myself bleeding through into God all over again: Pete, in kidnapping Mike to “assist” in taking Mel back for burial in Jimenez, is taking the vilest of the vile to his bosom, asking nothing more (and nothing less) than that he take ownership of his actions and walk in the dead man’s clothes and shoes. Drink from his cup. Yes, lots of predictable events along the way: but, the lovely surprise of Mel’s “family,” and the sweetness of the final burial. Next morning, Mike sleeping like a babe, Pete kicks his boot, says, “You can go now.”

Somewhere way back in my overstuffed vault of inconsequential information, I remember some film critic saying that Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us was his Faulkner film, even though TLU was not written by WF. More than that, I think: that TLU was THE Faulkner film that no one had ever managed to “get,” from the man’s own novels themselves.

About six years ago, I sat through a sadly eviscerated version of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. The feel was there, Matt Damon was perfect as John Grady Cole, as was Lucas Black as Jimmy Blevins, but the wonderful wandering coda at the novel’s end was completely gone. The painstaking, heartbreaking commitment to “make things right.” No other part of that novel (a novel I love, from beginning to end), sits as indelibly inscribed on my heart.

Well, lo and behold, Tommy Lee found those eviscerated traces floating out there in the ether and “made things good” as he and Mike wandered down to Jimenez.

Julian of Norwich: “It seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as he created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all would have been well… Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well."

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