It is Monday at about 1:30 in the afternoon. It’s stopped raining, though it never really was raining. Spitting is the word my mother would use long ago when the world was young. And, now, what might become rain hangs in the air, an invisible curtain of moolecules, (I love the typo), waiting to coat everything with a film of moisture just short of wet.
It is cool, and the sky is stuffed with clouds, bumps and soft humps of them; blue-gray cotton cushion clouds hanging, packed side to side, front to back above and still, paused like sheep waiting for the gate to open. There’s no menace. There might be if there was a breath of a breeze; but the wind’s sleeping, stretched out above them with its hands behind its head and its legs crossed at the ankles, I suppose, on the sunny side.
Behind the scrim of trees across the road that goes by the front of our home are the railroad tracks, and beyond the railroad tracks where two or three freights go rumbling by each week; long ones you can feel shuddering through your chest, beating a slow click…..clack as the wheels crawl along rails which squeak occasionally, squeaking under the load of coal going north and wood going south; behind that scrim, beyond those tracks, the only sound but birds at the feeders in the front and back of the house is of the crew at work clearing the power company’s right of way. “That’s men,” I found myself thinking, thumping, buzzing, pounding, clanging, humming; men and their tools. Men, doing what comes naturally.
Occasionally one hears a deep “THUMP!”, the sound of a felled tree. Then comes the angry buzz of a chain saw. Then comes the sputter and the roar, the hungry, deeper roar of a wood chipper. Another tree is being eaten.
And, the trees stand silent. And the river, quiet and still, flows past my window, beyond the meadow now thick with wild vines and and all manner of little animals beneath them sleeping the day away until night falls and they come out; animals I know are there but which I have never seen; they come out to sniff and eat and wander by the houses set all in a row along the bank above the vine covered meadow by the river’s edge.
They sometimes eat the blossoms of the flowers my wife has planted, and the tender new leaves; eat the blossoms and leaves of the flowers in all the neighbors’ gardens. Those beautiful things we like to see, and the animals think nothing of eating them during the silent, dark night. In the evenings when we come back outside, when the others from their homes come back outside, we might talk about almost anything; but what we talk about quite often are the animals who come by at night and eat the flower petals and the tender leaves, then go back down into their dens beneath the vines and wild weeds and sleep, bellies full of the work we’ve done to feed them.
All of that is good. After all, wasn’t it good then? I mean, well, you know…
Elsewhere, I suppose, great things are happening; great and important things. And, later on, when the sun has set, and the lights are on inside, and the vine covered meadow has the cloud covered moon alone to bathe it, my neighbors will turn on the TV and learn about the great and important things. Some of it may worry them. Some of it may make them annoyed. Some of it, I hope, will make them smile and be happy they are who they are, where they are and with whom they are.
That will be good, too.
This morning I wrote this on my Facebook page: “Speak less. Think more.” My wife, bless her heart replied: “Think more. Pray more.”
Here is something to think more about, and perhaps pray more because of it:
The hymn they are singing goes by the name of “Dies Irae”.. It is part of the Catholic Funeral Mass, the “Sequence”, particularly, which is usually sung before the Gospel is read.
Well, it used to be part of it. That’s all been changed, and one might go along time before one heard the words to the Dies Irae, in any language, let alone heard them sung in Latin, or chanted, or anything. Berlioz writes well, but I kind of think he overdoes it a bit.
These are the words in English:
Day of Wrath
Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.
O what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth,
All before the throne it bringeth.
Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo, the book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded,
Thence shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding
When the just are mercy needing?
King of majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us.
Think, kind Jesus, my salvation
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation,
Leave me not to reprobation.
Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me,
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.
Guilty now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning,
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning.
Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.
When the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me with Thy Saints surrounded.
Low I kneel with heart’s submission,
See, like ashes, my contrition,
Help me in my last condition.
Ah! That day of tears and mourning,
From the dust of earth returning,
Man for judgment must prepare him,
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.
Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.
Berlioz does get a bit overwrought, don’t you think? But sometimes…sometimes one needs one’s attention to be attracted. Find yourself, find yourself a version of the Dies Irae rendered in the original chant. Sit quietly. Read the words. Think. Pray. That’s good, too. Really.