Monday, May 19, 2008

My Great Britannic Adventure, Day Eight

Friday, 24 March, 1989
Day Eight, Good Friday

Funny what a creature I am of arbitrary circumstance. I felt much better this morning-- simply because I dreamed of Nigel*. I dreamed he'd adopted me as his sister and put me under his protection. It made me feel so warm and safe and cared for and secure that I could cry recalling it.

This is totally silly, I know. But not absolutely. There is precedent for this in waking life . . . oh, God, protect him!

Everyone is on a chore team here; I am assigned to the toilet-cleaning detail. I have lots of experience at that from my maiding days when I was in Architecture school. Spent much of my stint today cleaning excess grout, sealant, and sanding dust off the fixtures and tile.

10:15 was craft time. As to that, it's become obvious that when Christine MacLean told me on the phone there was a program for people staying at the MacLeod Center, she didn't just mean a special room and board rate. She meant a program-program, with a schedule and meetings and seminars and all. If the weather would behave-- like stop raining horizontally-- I'd maybe say phooey on it and go do what I came here to do. But as it is, I can't go out and there's nothing else really to do up here in the Center. Besides, it feels like since I'm getting such a cheap rate to stay here, I have to "pay" for it by going along with expectations.

Which this morning was a craft session. We were supposed to do a collage sharing the journey of our lives (vs. the life of Christ, which is what I would have expected on Good Friday) and then explain it tonight in a session. Oh, shit. Expose myself in front of all these strangers, with whom I may not even be in basic sympathy? But I decided I didn’t want to suffer another creative block like I did in January† so I made myself go to work anyway, in chalk. (Finding magazine pictures would’ve taken too long.) Depicted the truth, too, since I couldn’t begin to lie about such a thing. Wouldn’t know how.

There was tea at 11:15, then diddling around till time to go to the church for the Good Friday service at noon. It was a Stations of the Cross, thirteen or fourteen of them, with more made-up dramatic language instead of Scriptural passages.

After that there were the Seven Last Words from the Cross, followed each one by ten minutes of silent meditation. I stayed for the first two . . . Lukas* was across the choir. I wondered if he would ever think of praying for me. I’m beginning to gravely doubt it would cross his mind. I prayed for him, and for me, that I would do the right thing by him. And for Nigel*-- all blessings on Nigel*, especially with the troubles he's facing at home with his family back in S-- . . .

It had stopped raining when I left the church, so I walked into the village to see about getting some wash done. But everything was closed for lunch. I could stand on the beach and watch the tide come up, though.

It started to rain before I got back, of course. And blow.

Got myself in for lunch just in time. Soup and crackers with cheese. Soup entirely vegetable-based, very lacking in body-- and soul. I found it a bit demoralising.

Decided to try to get a little Walter Scott read, then did some handwash in the sink in the laundry room here. They don’t have a washer, which is odd, but they do have a spin dryer that takes most of the excess water out of your handwash. It got off-balance once and made the most horrible racket.

I was on the setting up and serving team for supper. Got it done somehow, despite having missed out on the description of the drill. The menu was fish, which was a nice change.

The collage-explaining thing wasn’t as bad as I’d envisioned, mostly because I do feel so out of sympathy with what’s going on here-- don’t worry, I realize it’s my own fault-- that I don’t really care what the people around here think of me. So I can tell them the truth, though of course properly dressed and packaged. One doesn’t want to be tedious, after all.

Another service in the church this evening, of Commitment. More drama, illustrating the people like Peter, Judas, and Pilate, who failed to make a proper commitment to Christ as he was going to the Cross. (Someone had asked me before dinner if I’d be willing to participate and make the noise of the cock crowing offstage as Peter denies Jesus the third time. I said No, for I was feeling too depressed to believe I’d be able to make a sound when the time came. And I couldn’t help believing the Brits were thinking, "Oh, she’s an American, she’s Loud, she’ll do fine." But whoever did it instead did such a piss poor job of it I regretted my decision. I should have gathered all my high school and college drama training about me and let that rooster rip regardless.)

It hit me how ineffective all this liturgical drama is for me when the prayers began and I suddenly realized I was hearing them as still part of the drama, something to be observed and analysed from the outside and not part of an act of worship in which I was to participate.

The burden of the prayers seemed to be towards commitment to one’s fellow man and not to Christ Himself. I suppose you can’t have true commitment to Christ without serving your neighbor. But there’s so many people who think they can achieve commitment to Christ merely by being good to others, with no focus on Jesus Himself, and I don’t think it works. Not that anybody here has said outright they were trying this method . . . One more example of my general ambivalence towards what's going on.

The only time this uncertainty was broken was when in the darkened church some actual words of Jesus from the Scripture were read out, and then the wind of the Spirit began to blow.

Tea in the refectory again. Nothing out of
Mr. Renzberger* again. This fact is beginning to assume an importance it shouldn’t have. I could understand him cutting me dead if we’d been very close and quarrelled or if I’d given signs of wanting to be close when he did not, but neither of those things are true. He can't possibly think I've come to Iona just to be with him; we see each other all the time at Coverdale* and besides, I told him last month I'd always intended to come here. I certainly don’t expect him to take great blocks of time out of his fellowship with his new-found friends in the abbey program, but good grief, would it kill him to come and say, "Hi, how’s it going, how are you; well, I have to get back and talk to Whatsername or Whatsisname before they leave"? If he weren’t making me feel as if I had some sort of fatal social disease, I’d say he was being extremely rude.

I wrote a poem about this when I got back to the room, and felt better, a little.
†In January of '89 the married students at Coverdale* College had hosted a progressive dinner. For a party game, at each stop we diners had to execute an assigned art project in a limited amount of time. At the first house, I'd tried to prove my artistic bona fides by working a Masterpiece in the tiny piece of plasticine we were given. I wasn't happy with what I'd made and in my childish frustration smashed it. To make things worse, the host said to me, "That's all right. We can't all be artists!" Crap!

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