It’s Saturday and raining–the first true Sabbath I’ve had for a while. With a few jobs, a few friends, and a few classes I’ve picked up, It’s been more than little difficult to rest, to just be still.
[I feel like this is something we are always saying these days, but it might be a while before it stops being true, before our desperation explodes.]
True, the weekend before I had not been working. I visited my dear, longtime friend Alia in her tiny blue cave-house on the south side of Dallas within walking distance of fascinating people and vegan diners. This is indeed a kind of soul rest. We sprawled like cats across the periwinkle duvet, drinking in each other’s stories, bursting with them, content to listen, to ebb and flow. We have both changed so much over the years, and even in some important ways. But this? It stays the same. It is easy. And I am always so pleased to step into her life in the briefest of moments, whether it is trading English and Farsi curse words with her family or talking late into the night with her ragtag tribe of troubadours, artists, and 9-to-5-ers.
[On Sunday I watch her fry the eggs. I, charged with toast, load my knife with butter and marvel at the fact that I have been given close friends who make verbs out of words like home and host and harbour and haven, with a practiced ease.]
But this weekend takes on a peace in a different hue. I have cloistered away from retweets and comments and mentions, and it feels just right. I’m practicing absorption. I read Dante’s Purgatorio slowly, word by word, note by note, swallowing them rich like chocolate. I’m not sure how much time goes by. The Commedia is about a journey–arguably our own–and I laugh to think of how we’ve taken that word and run with it. Journey. I sympathize with Dante’s distraction along the way, and catch my breath when I read certain lines:
And I, who understood what he intended,
raised my tear-stained cheeks
and he restored the color
Hell had obscured in me.
He speaks in terms of color, of song, of walking, and these are things I understand.
[And Cato’s chastening at their pause to listen to the lesser song? This was enough to cut to the quick, but then professor told us that it was one of Dante’s own poems, that here was a reflected rebuke about loving his own words. Mercy, I sigh.]
I remember my cappuccino beside me and the Rilke in my bag. I’m reading his letters.
Therefore, dear sir, love your solitude and bear with sweet-sounding lamentation the suffering it causes you.
This is not the kind of thing I grew up with. Maybe I once thought that Jesus came so we wouldn’t hurt any more. Maybe instead He came because we hurt.
[Later, I will cry through this poem of Rilke’s. I realize that I want the “she” to be me.]
I call Alia [one of a small band that has been trying to get me to read him for years], pacing in the rain, running my mouth about Rilke and his loneliness, how sometimes he makes it sound like we are utterly alone at the root of it all. This worries me for me, but also for him. I want to know if he ever had a true friend in this life. She’s not sure. I tell her something I read after my professor’s memorial service, something she once wrote about loneliness as analogous to fasting, when you lean into it. You find your truest Dependency. You are without for a while to see more clearly Whom you always have, Who always has you. See what the loneliness has for you, Lauren Winner wrote.
[I ask, am I lonely? Is that the word for it?]
I’m playing the new Mumford album [along with everyone else].
Though I may speak some tongue of old
Or even spit out some holy word
I have no strength from which to speak
When you sit me down, and see I’m weak
We will run and scream
You will dance with me
They’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free
And we will be who we are
And they’ll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away…
Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste
As it keeps my heart and soul in its place
And I will love with urgency but not with haste
[I wonder, softly, why it seems easier to pray with Dante, Rilke, and Marcus Mumford these days.]
The rain is loud enough to allow a beating heart and nothing more, to make a quiet soul.