Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The sound of silence, roadkill and a great cookout.

     On Saturday evening, the organist didn't show up for the wedding.  The chapel was beautiful in the soft light, with candles, calla lilies and white roses adorning the altar.  Blue hydrangeas were tied to each pew with stiff lavender ribbons.  The guests were seated and soft chatter filled the space, and then stilled.  But, at ten till the hour, there was still no music - no organist.  After a frantic scramble to fill the void, the bride sighed and the wedding proceeded - without music.  The mothers were seated in silence.    The bridesmaids smiled and processed in one by one, their silver heels clicking with each step down the stone aisle.   The bride and her father entered, looked at each other, laughed half-heartedly, and walked down the aisle. The silence was reverent and solemn but completely overwhelming.  
     It was the absence of the beautiful that stopped the breath.  Where were the celebratory notes of Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary or the time honored traditional wedding march?  Or even the trendy "Here comes the sun" blasting  from an ipod?  I usually love silence, but in this case, the silence was reverent but hollow, quiet but empty, a deep void within the usual celebration.  
     The organist had written the time down wrong.  She arrived in time to play the recessional, the  triumphant "Hornpipe" from Handel's Water Music Suite, which she played loud and long as if to make up for the earlier loss.  
     But what I will remember from this wedding is being stunned by the silence - the what was not.


Roadkill Chapel
     Driving onto the Ravenel Bridge from Mt. Pleasant early one morning recently, I skirted some roadkill. It was a rather large raccoon with a beautiful coat, curled into a crescent moon shape as if sleeping. Rush-hour traffic flowed past. I know on this side of town, it won’t be long until it’s gone, all mortal remnants safely swept away.
     I used to do what many others do - just avoid looking at it, but now I mimic a practice that some monks follow, who pause to pray anytime they hear a bell ring to remind them to be present. I use roadkill as a reminder to say a prayer of thanks for the life that was, for the life I have and for the blessings of the chance encounters we have with others that might go unnoticed without a sense of presence. 
     Roadkill reminds me we all drop out of the flow of traffic one day, usually not in a graceful or planned exit. It reminds me not to be stingy in giving others blessings and to open myself to ones I’m supposed to be receiving. Above is a landscape scene I pass frequently. When I pass it, I use it similarly as roadkill, as a visual reminder to pause and reflect. I don’t know what’s around the next bend, but at this moment the sun has poked through and I feel peace.
     An inexpensive charcoal grill was one of the best investments I've
ever made. This time last year, I didn't have my own backyard, just a
concrete patio outside my apartment barely big enough for a small
table and two chairs. But now that I have a yard and a patio big
enough for entertaining, I went to Lowe's a few weeks ago and bought
some patio furniture and a grill, as I had long wanted to do. I've
enjoyed grilling several times this spring (sometimes even with
veggies from my own garden!) and to kick off the unofficial first
weekend of summer, I hosted a cookout. I grilled chicken, hamburgers,
and a few veggies, and my friends brought side dishes and desserts.
Everyone pitched in to get things ready. Jen cut up tomatoes. Damon
instructed me on grilling technique. Sarah carried plates and
silverware outside. Tayelor cut beautiful hydrangeas for the table.
The other Jen put strawberries and whipped cream in the fridge to
chill until they were ready to be put on top of pound cake later. I
lit mosquito-repellant tiki torches and citronella candles, and set up
my iPod speakers so we could enjoy the party mix I had created for the
     This is what I had looked forward to most about having a grill, how it
would be a good excuse to host the people I love at my house. I am a
true introvert, but a very social one. When I love people, I love them
an awful lot, and I love having them around as often as possible. Even
though the tomatoes were a little underripe, and the hamburgers had a
hard time holding together on the grill, and the torches didn't
completely keep the bugs away, it was everything I hoped it would be.
We sat under the stars talking and laughing for hours. The weather was
ideal, with a cool breeze and not too much humidity. Hurley and his
doggie friend Thunder enjoyed being out in the yard with us, or
watching us through the glass door from inside in the air
conditioning. Several times, someone would say, "Oh, I love this
song!" and connections were made, memories shared. Everyone enjoyed
the company, though not all of them knew one another before that
night, and I took delight in watching the new acquaintances swap email
addresses or recipes. Not many moments in life completely live up to
my expectations, but in the middle of this simple cookout, I couldn't
help but say a prayer of thanks for a perfect evening.


No comments:

Post a Comment