Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Out in the close

St. John's has a Close--I'm sure the name was once "Enclosure", as in a monastic space...a place where the monks or nuns were free to go without worrying about the intrustion of the world. It got shortened, along the way, over centuries, to "Close". And St. John's 'Close'--most people call it the courtyard or just the 'yard'--is nothing like that. All sorts and conditions of folks cross it, sleep in it, sit in it, use the bathroom there. And we have about a hundred ashes of people buried there--anonomously, without drawing attention to them because the 300 or so folks coming to the Soup Kitchen walk, sit, sleep, etc. there each day. It is a 'resting place' surrounded by the endless restlessness of human beings. Not so bad, I think. But what I watch is the squirrels and the birds.

Pigeons walk around there, nodding and bowing as they coo. Squirrels live in the Elm trees--some of the last in the state...we have two, having cut down and murdered one last summer because she was so diseased. And the crows--my God, the crows!--who have decided this is their stomping grounds and cawing grounds and bothering the pigeons, starlings and squirrels place.

There is a hawk who lives in downtown. I've never gotten close enough to him to look him up in some book and tell you what kind of hawk he is. And there is this: when he comes into the Close, high up in one of the trees, all the other creatures run or fly for cover. When the hawk comes, all other life disappears. Some power he's got, some enormous respectability. Even I feel a little nervous when he shows up.

What I've noticed in the last few weeks, smoking cigarettes with folks from the Soup Kitchen--they mostly 'roll their own', which impresses me--is the squirrel that is building a nest in one of the downspouts on the parish house. He/she--probably she--fills her mouth with more dead leaves than you could believe, climbs the elm closest to the church and leaps across to the parish house roof. Then she adds her leaves to whatever else she has up there in the downspout.

Either the nest will be washed away by the spring rains or it will stop up the spout until someone has to crawl out on the roof and dig it out of the spout. Either way--and there is no third option I can imagine, she is spending a lot of squirrel hours doing something that isn't going to work in the end.

She makes me think about how I spend my time. How much of it is climbing and leaping and building in ways that will never ultimately work?

I feel for her--but there is no solution to the force of rainwater or the maintenance of people who don't want drains clogged. But she works, so hard, so tirelessly, so gracefully....And in vain.

She makes me ponder the stuff I do....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.