Still shaky from the ministroke I suffered the week before, I visited the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers Tuesday morning. Sitting in the monastery's beautiful church with its abstract stained glass windows, I recalled that it was Mardi Gras, and Lent would begin the next day.
It's been years since I've been to carnival in New Orleans, although I still play the old Professor Longhair classics and always give the bacchanal a silent nod. I remember one sun-kissed day years ago watching the gay community parade by with their gorgeous headdresses, my first inkling of cross-dressing and so forth.
Although I've pretty much given up prayer, I found myself speaking to an immense silence that permeated the church. The ministroke hit with an ethereal light, probably just a cutoff of oxygen, or maybe the deity. In any case, ever since the Transient Ischemic Attack, I've felt more thankful for my life and all of its blessings.
After my contemplation in the church, I walked to the monastery bookstore, where I was spooked by the instructional manuals on centering prayer and the religious life that I used to study in my days of Catholic fervor. Now they seemed like artifacts of a forgotten language.
Browsing further, I found a shelf devoted to the prolific works of Thomas Merton, once one of my top literary/spiritual heroes. I could be mistaken, but the church, and world at large, suffers from the absence of thinkers and writers like Merton these days.
I found a thick collection of Merton's literary essays, delighted to discover that he wrote several pieces on Faulkner and gave two formal presentations on the Mississippi novelist. Merton's book also includes essays on Camus, the poetic craft and a number of foreign poets, including Vallejo.
Headed home, I wanted to find a way back to belief, beginning with Robert Penn Warren's "A Way to Love God." And circling back to Merton.
Soon we were immersed in the commercial clutter of South DeKalb County. Then we made the big turn in downtown Atlanta past Grady Hospital, where last week I spent four days being pricked and poked, having electric wires thrust through my stomach into my heart, taking pills and losing the battle to get some sleep.
My room had an expansive view of the Atlanta downtown skyline, and I kept trying to find the old Atlanta Journal -Constitution building where I toiled for so many years. I never quite located the old cube.
Back home from the monastery, I noticed blooms popping out on the last day in February that in the past didn't arrive until April. Winter is now an obsolete concept. At least the apocalypse will be lovely.