I made the effort to attend three of the evening services for Holy Week. Tuesday was rather dull and my feet hurt. Wednesday I bowed myself under the book of the gospels and prayed for forgiveness. Thursday I stood to hear twelve readings from the gospels concerning the passion of Christ and bowed in awe as the priest shouldered a life-size cross and carried it around the church, in the same path that the Eucharist is carried every Stunday. He nailed the icon of Christ to it and we all pressed forward to kiss the feet of the icon.
Going to church so much was worth it for that.
I do not go to the long day of services today or to the service tomorrow, when my friend Patrick will be chrismated. I’m in NorCal, at a friend’s house, receiving a day of sunshine and clean air as a gift. Jenn and I drive up early in the morning with the Weepies playing. I explore the acre-and-a-third of hilly, long-grassed land. There is a formation of boulders that I climb, and climb again. It’s been a long time since I felt mossy granite under my hands.
I step carefully. You have to plan two moves ahead so your momentum doesn’t carry you too far, but you do the planning as much with your body as with your mind. You only know it’s going to work when it’s worked. When you jump to a lower spot, you can’t plan ahead. You have to land and hope there’s not a hidden rock in the grass, or that the soft dirt won’t slide downhill with you on it, or that your weight won’t disturb the equilibrium of a hundred years of stone. You can’t think of falling, only of doing the movement perfectly.
I scramble to different summits and survey the land. I am the king of Pride Rock. Sometimes I chase the black lizards who live in the clefts, but by the time I take a step they have flown into hiding.
When the boulders are sufficiently conquered I visit the horses. Jenn’s dad gives me a halter to bring them up the hill to the stall to brush their coats, which are full of shed hair and dirt. Something spooks one of them and I cannot coax him near the barn. Unwisely, I pit my weight against his. A toss of his head gives me a rope burn that hurts for hours. He wins.
Later I take myself to the boulders again and touch them. One hand is tough. One hand is sensitive, missing some skin, and tells me small details of texture in granite and lichen, good New Hampshire stone. I put the rock under my hands and haul myself up again.