Friday, February 9, 2007

The Visitors

Clarity and Peace, my long awaited visitors arrived humbly at my doorstep. There were no parting of clouds and majestic sunlight to signal their coming. They didn't approach with a crescendo of the orchestra or a soprano singing hallelujah. There was no music at all. Instead, they came in like the mist, unnoticed till you find yourself surrounded and covered by its presence.

I found them shrouded, stooped and quiet. Unsmiling and staring me in the face, Clarity took a step forward when I opened the gate. Peace lingered back and I was embarrassed. Thoughts of our last encounters came flashing back. It had been at a party - some celebration of me and I was drunk with elation. There were many guests gorging on food and drink and I was gliding back and forth among them. Many of the invited were family and friends, old and new. Some were recent acquaintances. Somewhere in there, Peace and Clarity were mingling. I had greeted them at the door, in hindsight maybe a bit carelessly and too quickly. Old friends should be understanding and I did not think it was necessary to make so much out of their being there. There were others who needed to be hi'd and hello'd. Hugs, handshakes, some even asked for air kisses. Flustered, but still giddy, I complied.

As the festivities wore on and the palest parts of the sky darkened, Clarity and Peace were beginning to feel haggard and tired. Their dresses were drooping and make-up looked washed out. They were taken aback by the proximity of formality and looseness. Helium voices let out hyena laughs. Plastic smiles flashed peroxide teeth. The two decided it was time to leave.

They walked out silently. In the din of noise I did not notice.

Months later now, I find the two here in front of me. Inviting them in, I searched their faces for forgiveness. They came in and this time they were the only ones there. Slowly, Peace took off her overcoat, hung it in the entrance closet and nudged Clarity to do the same. They stood there, together, heads cocked to the right and peered through the wide opening into the living, dining and kitchen areas. The place was a mess. Silently, the two stepped forward, moved me aside - now unable to speak or think - and began the process of cleaning up.

They piled the books and course packets on one side. Laid them there without stopping to read, I observed. In all my attempts at cleanliness I always failed when it came to this. Next they carried the unwashed dusty plates and glasses to the sink. Rinsed lightly, placed in dishwasher, and fully loaded set to wash. Guilt and uselessness moved me to bring out cleaning cloths and wipes and begin the process of rubbing grime off of surfaces. We three worked through the house over the course of the week. Passing through room to room and placing things in their proper places. Wiping, scrubbing, washing, folding, airing, organizing, labeling, throwing things, boxing and taping things away. Windows were opened and locks were changed. I threw out letters. Saved poetry written on napkins on journal pages. Deleted emails and photos. Rid myself of unwanted subscriptions and memberships of listservs and accounts. Removed pictures and writings. Framed paintings and drew calligraphy.

Then we bathed, purging every inch of our bodies, until skin became raw and fingertips felt like prunes. Lit some incense and unfurled prayer rugs. Recited scripture and made supplications.

Armed with colored pencils and markers we descended to the dining room. On the table, now free of clutter, we tore out a page of large sketch paper and drew a map of the world the way I wanted - no, needed - it to be. Peace drew out the boundaries, Clarity marked down the borders, and I colored it all in.

Evening began spreading its gray shawl on our shoulders. Chamomile tea was made by the kitchen window overlooking the sunset. Sipping in the quiet, suddenly we began to talk about desires and longings, hopes and dreams. Forgotten or new. Everything that one could think of for the self. What was it that I wanted to do? No, as in really really do...What inspired me? Made my heart happy? Brought me to my knees, in tears at the wonder of all that is glorious and holy? Lessened the distance between knowing and believing?

Words fell like puzzle pieces from my mouth and out onto the table, covering the map. Warmed from holding the teacups, our hands moved to fit the pieces together over the map of the world. We cut and reshaped some of them. More words came. Often incoherent, always soulful. Arranging and rearranging, sometimes discarding the pieces, we went on. It was late. There was something there. I asked them to stay on. To stay.

The map was unfinished. New pieces were forming, old ones may need salvaging. We fitted the guest rooms with laundered sheets.

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