Monday, February 14, 2005

Stones and glass

I got an excellent necklace for Valentines Day. It's shiny, it's pretty, and it has a big honking emerald in the middle. I have a sapphire engagement ring, butterfly earrings and necklace that're yellow, green, purple and pink, and a heart shaped ruby ring and necklace. The two sets I got last year for Valentines day. James knows I like the man-made stones. They're bigger for your money, and they have perfect clarity. I like the way the light shines through them. It's like stained glass.

I've always had a fascination with stained glass. The church I grew up in had tons of magnificant stained glass windows. I was never very interested in the ones depicting the life of Christ, or the saints that rose thin and tall between the buttresses of romanesque church. There seemed to be something very staunch and upright and German about them, black and white seemed to be the most dominant features. I loved the many brilliant colors of the rose windows.

There was a rose window at the rear, above the choir loft. Red, yellow and green were the dominant colors and it didn't appeal to me growing up. I was always thankful that the choir were the only people who got to wittness that color scheme first hand. At the apse of the church, there were two better ones on either side. I was quite fond of the blues from left side's image of the Assumption. On Fridays in grade school when the nuns would march us over for mass, the light breaking over the two story school and passing through the white clouds beneath the Virgin's feet could blind. On those cold winter days when the sun hit that point mid-morning, I'd think of Saul on the road to Demascus, and I'd think... Saul... I'm there with ya, buddy. Only God's voice seemed to sound an awful lot like a four-foot nine-inch nun who was informing me that they're called KNEELERS, not FOOTERS. There didn't seem to be anything in there about persocuting anyone.

My favorite stained glass was by far the oposing rose window. What more could one ask for? The background was a brilliant deep blue, deeper than sapphire. It was the color of blood, if blood were blue and on fire. Jesus, crowned and enthrowned as the king of heaven was robed in red. The color often reminded me of a cherry ring pop--dark, dazzling and left a tang under the tongue. The angels wings were white like diamonds, and when the warm, yellow sunlight of late summer afternoons poured through, it danced at an odd angle across the altar, spilling red and blue across the white marble and gold tile. There wasn't anything one could ask for in life.

Well, except for the occational medaevil glow of a torch-like street lamp flickering low through a small port window, a red heart surrounded by a crown of thorns, burning but not consumed in a gaseous, hot-burning cobalt background--reflecting on a smooth marble Michelangelo, casting long oval shapes in pink and blue on the grief-striken mother's side. It was like that a few times, cold winter penance services full of unwilling students, a humid spring Saturday night when I was sitting in a short pew by myself before mass, contemplating the task of the inevidable competition or race with the organ that happens when you're singing a football field away.

There's something transporting about it, something that takes one's mind to a timeless place that's quiet and removed. It's also a time-marking experience. I remember looking at the glass above the altar, wondering why they'd make pictures then put them so high up so that no one could see what they were. I was short enough then to stand on a kneeler and cling to the pew in front of me, the soft edge cutting into my armpits. Boredom rained supreme and the roar of the jet engine-like fans killed any hope I had of hearing or paying attention to the visiting Nigerian priest. I remember trying desperately to fight the subconscious urge to put my feet on the kneeler for fear of Sr. Mary Francis catching me. I remember daily mass the summer before I left for college; it was 100 every day, the spices drifting into the church from the Indian place down the street.

I remember standing in the vestibule as my mother held an inconsolable screaming child, staring up at the misfitted squares of orange glass above the doors. I remember the blue and white reflection of the Assumption rose window in the black glossed lid of the piano on that bright bitterly cold morning of my grandfather's funeral. Of standing next to it as I tried desperately to forget the priest's kind words in private before the funeral that were threatening to crack through a heavy layer of resignation and relief that his suffering was over and he was in a better place. The brilliant blue and yellow light reflecting off of the piano and into my eye as I tried to swallow the African priest's compassion long enough to drive through the Ave Maria I had sung to my grandfather when he was in the hospital, when I think he was able to hear me and perhaps briefly I was able to reach him in the place he had gone to.

The light reflected off the piano today, somewhere between a missed note and falling asleep during the homily the second time through. It was another church, not nearly as grand, or as full of memories. It was a shallow moment, Amethyst and a cantelope color reflected from a small, uninspired window. It made me want to go back to those moments in time, to the moments I was taken out of time. Things and experiences that now only seem to exist in my mind.

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