Early last Sunday, while Arlene was busy preparing for the service at Chilmark, (one which would feature the Jim Thoma Spirituals Choir), I was boarding the seven a.m. ferry to Woods Hole. It was a beautiful morning. The heat that had assaulted the preceding days with ninety degree temperatures had broken. When the boat began to pull out of the slip, I stood against against the rails of the outer-deck, grateful for the sense of tranquility that graced my departure. Leaving this island is never easy. As i gazed fondly at the wooden boats moored in the harbor, and then lifted my eyes to behold the steeples rising above the treetops, I could not help but think about how much my life has been transformed by this mystical and enchanted landscape. How many gifts it has to offer. How many secrets it is waiting to disclose. Secrets that are necessary for our personal evolution. (And to think i only came here for a weekend – twenty five years ago – to see a fellow i had a crush on perform in a Shakespeare play. It was a production of Twelfth Night in the ampitheater. i had never been to the island before, and arrived in black fishnets and a black sequin beret, expecting to hail a cab to the ampitheater, which i presumed to be a large colleseum like construct with vendors selling penants, bags of granola, and theatrical souvenirs… i never got the guy. In fact, he never even noticed me among the six or seven in the audience. But I was offered an even more remarkable relationship with the island itself. With Martha. What a romance. As we all know, she is a temptress, a narcissist, bewitching, beguiling, and capable of casting spells. If Martha wants you, she doesn’t let you go. As long as you worship and adore her, she will always find you a couch to sleep on, and a reason for you to stay on). With that in mind, i must now have Faith, and Trust, that even the ostensibly bad things that happen on the Vineyard - such as this recent mishap – are likewise part of a greater plan – one designed for the ultimate benefit of all, however that might make itself manifest - and despite the need for massive dosages of ibuprophin. The island seems to dispatch many fairies, woodland nymphs, and benevolent spirits, to bless our lives and perform its magic, but it likewise seems to have an inexhaustible supply at its command of various nebishes, jinksters and pranksters to execute its more fiendish mischief.
This last week at Arlenes was really restorative. In many ways – like the love and concern i received from various parisioners at the church, it defies my ability to articulate – and truly remains one of the gifts disclosed by the disastor. Sometimes things need to be cracked – if not broken – for the light to get in. And i am humbled, for, despite whatever intelligence i might portend, i am utterly mystified by the power of the love, the understand and the compassion i was given – which helped heal and transform my body and spirit, on a cellular level. The nurturing, acceptance, and support i received still stupified and causes me to stop in my tracks.
I do know that i am no longer the battered, bedraggled and bruised scruff muffin that relocated to Arlene’s a week ago. i was shaken and rattled – both on a physical and emotional level – which many of you bore witness to, and helped me through. God has a remarkable sense of synchronicity – and it seemed as if you were dispatched into my life at various junctures throughout this debacle. Running into Ann Dietrich at the Post Office, or Julie at The Chilmark Community Center, for example, at times when i was “on the verge” of breaking. Or Ted and Judy while I endeavoring to pound out the notes to a song I had orginally intended to play at the service – though the accident prevented me. “In the Arms of The Angel.”
Now, enriched by the acceptance, love, and support I received, I must dwell in the hope that my body continues to heal and mend so that i am as good as new. I am not sure if that’s how it can be at my age, but let’s see…let’s hope…let’s pray. With God, all things are possible. And may I continue to remember the healing love from Laurie and Don and Pam and Clark and Judy and Ted and Julie and Arlene and Dr. Lorna, and Ann and Virginia, when i return to the city – May the memory provide as much of a sanctuary that heals and gives strength, as was lavished upon me since the accident occurred.
I am especially grateful for this last weekend. I had only intended to stay “a few days” at Arlene’s and certainly did not want to violate any boundaries in that regard, or overstay my welcome. At the outset i thought i would leave midweek, though as Wednesday, then Thursday approached, I was still a wreck inside, frazzled. i was afraid that a if i head back to New York and something bad happpened, anything – the slightest inconvenience, it could make me snap. lose it. go beserk – in a way that would only hurt myself. That’s what people who are by themselves do in the city: they hurl themselves in front of garbage trucks, or busses, or on the tracks of an oncoming subway train. Sometimes it just gets to be too much. I guess the word for me mid week was fragile. i never really left Arlene’s side; i was like a baby duck, in that regard. Despite my vehement independence, I guess can sometimes be very self adhesive. Or let’s say i made pretend to leave her side, but was always on the radar screen. i seldom ventured out, and don’t know that i have ever spent that much time in doors. i guess its what i needed. Arlene’s place offers a home for the intellect, for the artist, for the stomach, and for the weary. The heat wave – proved a blessing, for it not only dissuaded me from leaving at the end of the week (tempertatures in the city hovered around one hundred and ten degrees), but it aslo persuaded me during these final days, to get into the water. I took the bus to ocean park, both friday and again saturday. While elsewhere others sweltered, i stood in the cool turquoise waters of the Nantucket Sound. The water is shallow so the sun beats down and heats it to a merciful temperature. It felt good, and once my body was tempered, i sat down, near waters edge so that I was submerged. i did hand exercizes in hope of improving mobitlity and range of motion. i was grateful to have found my way back to the gifts of the island – in terms of the sky, the sea, the sands, the sun. I have to be reminded that what the island offers (and what i return for) has a far greater power than whatever destructive forces were at work when the accident occurred – and it is that relationship – the one with the island, that i must take care of and hold central. That is the one that nurtures. enkindles. affirms the existence of the soul and its need for a relationship with God – an unspoken trust demonstrated, likewise in the relationships i have developed with the parishioners at the church. It is not about class, politics, economic standing, or some imaginary – illusory stratasphere of importance. The transluscent aqua waters of Ocean Park were there for me – much more so than Lucy Vincent. Those things are always tricky. Especially in the summer.
As I remained leaning against the ferry’s railings, felt the breeze through my hair, and beheld the island, growing further in the distance, i was grateful for having been able to see the island in its greenery, so lush and verdant. It was just enough. Too much, and you have to deal with the summer people. Clam bakes on the beach that I am not invited to. Raw oysters. Not that i ever liked clams, or oysters, for that matter. The most they ever offered was the opportunity to use the word “unctuous.” But the idea of not being invited…
Somehow being with arlene also refunded my sense of self respect. she somehow recalibrated the barometer by which i measure my own self worth. this morning when i boarded the ferry, i did not feel like a ruffian, or a waif, or a wayward derelict who once might have shown promise but somehow missed the mark. i went out on the deck, glanced at the white clapboard houses sprinkled along the starboard shores, and thought, “oh its chilly. let me put on a my sweater.” so clean. so simple. so lovely.
I am not sure why exposure to certain elements can make me feel so substandard. ( Sometimes i get confused to see where others are in life and how they are living at my age. I can easily feel less than. As if i missed the boat somewhere along the way. Like i should run out this minute and get a pedicure and a designer dog). Somehow, Arlene sets a good standard, a good meridian. It is not about occupying some exalted realm of superlatives, if that makes any sense. It is about Good. Its not about the best. It does not imply some vertically inclined hierarchy where the unfortunate are consigned to occupy some low level synonomous with shame. It is not determining one’s sense of self worth and importance according to how many pair of Ugg boots one has or the type of cheese preferred with whatever sort of cracker. (Even though we all know extra sharp cheddar by far exceeds any competitor…) In Arlene’s world it is simply about goodness, which in itself is an absolute. Like many of those i have encountered at the church, who seem to appreciate who i am, (and don’t rub in what i am not), Arlene sees whatever inherent goodness there is – and seems to believe that i am priceless “as is.”
Good is good enough…
i am in awe of the congregation that attends the white clapboard chapel at nine Menemsha Crossing. Everyone figured so predominately in what was a very difficult and challenging experience, physically and emotionally. Looking back, how much transpired in a few short weeks. We lost phyllis. The organ was delivered. Billy arrived. Helen hurt her hand. Lobster rolls. Ian helps with the blessing of the fleet.
We are the fleet.
I know that at the outset of this last visit had intended to play “In The Arms Of The Angel” at the worship service. Instead, I feel like the accident delivered me into the arms of them.