I think I will go
where words are neither hard
but blaze unseen in bones . . . ” — Kathleen Norris
She writes these words from the choir, in a space where a baby nurses next to her and a grieving, motherless son sits across the aisle. I think that maybe moments like this happen best in old stone churches where the years of worship and pain transcend the mutability of today.
This morning, my friend Justin posted on Facebook that he “Came to practice organ for today’s funeral and the guest of honour is already here. Just me and him.” As I read these words, I imagined him on the great wooden bench that old church organs have, and I could hear the majesty and sadness of pipes fill the space. I saw the casket laid out with a regal man wearing a dark suit laid inside it, his spirit moving among the vaulted arches as Justin’s music sang him home.
Sometimes in special places when the air is just right and the silence barely audible, a human-shaped space can have the grandeur of a virgin forest in spring as the wind rustles the leaves at just the top of the trees. Somehow, the arches and alcoves of a heavy, history-laden building can contain an experience and a moment that slips from my fingers when I stand beneath on the roof of the sky. It’s as if a gorgeous building embraces life and shapes it softly into a breath that sits just before my lips.
Good writing can do the same. When Chaim Potok writes, “Listen to me, Asher Lev. As an artist you are responsible to no one and to nothing,except to yourself and to the truth as you see it,” I feel my spirit nod in ascent as if he has taken the thought I know but never fully speak and put it in language as a gift for me. Or when I read Annie Dillard talk about closing the blinds on her carrel to sequester herself with her words, I want to pull my shades and hang a blanket over the window so that all the energy of the story is trapped with me. True writing contains what is beyond us and lays it out line by line for us to draw in as we are able.
So today, as I hear Justin play for the glory that was this man’s life, I am thankful for the roof and the walls of that old building. May the music resonate for hours and live forever in the stones.
– St. John’s Church, Aberdeen, Scotland