It just may be that every character, like every opal, has unique and complex facets.
The unique facet for me just might be the lifelong drive and everyday efforts toward optimal human connections at every level, combined with astonishing social clumsiness. Sure, there is a solid track record as a good grocery customer, model dental patient, friendly neighbor, and great customer service representative. But at anything closer and more significant, things veer right off into hilarity or heartbreak. Interactions that were made in heaven to be the most warm and close and loving and affectionate — well, they turn out more like flotsam that fractures into jagged splinters. It happened tonight, in a simple family phone call that went so cattywampus so fast that maybe it’s time to just quit talking.
And why? Well, the causative shortfalls and flaws abound. It all comes down to being way too naive, too eager, too religious, too literal, too huggy, too shy, too impressionable, too overwhelmed, too klutzy, too bursting with factoids about which nobody else gives the slightest hoot, and too deeply and permanently affected by words or tones of voice that were never meant to be noticed in the first place.
These everyday efforts make for some pretty good stories way after the fact. But meanwhile they add up to a general cloud of melancholic loneliness to carry around. If some little cartoon character (hedgehog, trilobite, whatever) were trudging through life feeling downcast to that degree, he would be followed by a big floating balloon, colored in with just a dark pencil scribble and a trail of bubbles pointing at his head.
But today for a couple of hours the floating thought balloon lightened up wondrously, and the pencil scribble inside it turned rosy and sparkling when I made another visit to the Greek Orthodox church. The service was just beautiful, and it was fascinating to see those familiar words written out in a whole new language. The church is very large and very busy with preparations for Nativity. Nevertheless, after service one priest hurried right over and offered to introduce me to the main priest, just in case I needed to talk! Then in the bookstore there was a big welcome and good books and icons and household things to admire and a lovely display for Nativity. (I bought a nice book on the Jesus Prayer, and little Nativity icon cards, and some jasmine incense to keep on the desk at work.)
After that I walked over to the park across the street with an amazing feeling of genuine happiness.
The clouds parted to a bright blue sky, the sun came out, and all the foliage sparkled. The air was perfectly fresh and clean and fragrant. The tall tall pines whispered and swayed. A Hairy Woodpecker (they don’t really have hair, but they really do peck wood) flew right up to me and started tapping around and around a snag tree, piping cute notes and fluttering a little dance and looking all spruce in his tidy black and white suit and red spot. A Labradoodle came rushing to greet me. “He really wants to show you that old tennis ball he’s got in his mouth,” the owner apologized; “he just found it now in the woods.” I gave the dog a good petting and told him “Did you? I love when that happens! I chew on mine too! Who’s a good boy?” and the three of us had a nice visit.
Then came the ferns. Now, it’s easy to find ferns. They are common enough growing in pots in houses. But as indoor plants go, the fern adventure doesn’t end well for the fern. In that close human relationship (owner + ornamental) they just pine away. But out here in the woods they were packed in all over the place.
There were all shapes and sizes, all kinds.
They marched along the ground, on rocks, in moss, growing right out of tree trunks.
In the winter woods, the textures and types of ferns were just a wonder. Here were these beautiful creatures with their unique facets, all faces and fingers, transforming decaying trees into soft luxurious pieces of art. Some of them might even be licorice ferns; I’ve heard that we can dry and pulverize their roots, and the starch is many times sweeter than sucrose. Imagine that.
What a revelation. If ferns can be this healthy and happy in the place that is right for them, then what if God has a place planned out where I can grow in a community too?
Maybe between here today and the Kingdom of Heaven, He has some little place even for me. One where it’s possible to feel safe and happy and close to other creatures who thrive in cold and rain; who take even the splintered jagged flotsam of circumstance, and then spin it into sugar.