23 February 2011

Page 4

“Good morning Mr. Zarbad. How are you today?”

“So far, so good. Off to the barn to feed Betsy and Jude.”

“Hey-that rhymes.”

“And tastes better when chewed.”

*editor’s note. Maurice’s neighbor, a one Mr. William ‘Wild Bill” Zarbad, does not appear anymore in this book under the guise of an aging Irish-American who raises sheep and dairy cattle in Goshen, Virginia. Instead, he appears as an un-named entity who…well, you can find out for yourself if he appears later.

Now it is a curious fact of nature that for the majority of history, mankind has more often than not, slept outside. The reasons are varied; a keen love of the stars, a voyage at sea, overcrowded tents, camping, an argument with the wife, perhaps even a miscalculation on the final date of one’s apartment lease and the start date of another. But in the Twenty-first century, it is a widely held notion that slumber should be carried indoors in a bed with four pillows, two blankets, 2 sheets, a comforter, beside an oak dresser holding a glass of water chilled to 45 Fahrenheit atop a hand-carved wooden coaster, a novel written by a British author deceased for a minimum of 30 years (unless it’s a cheap paperback), a box of kleenex, resting under a lamp, and quite possibly near a hand-carved cedar box from Lebanon containing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Furthermore, to be discovered outdoors covered in frost in one’s lawn chair at dawn is considered most unusual behavior…even when alcohol is involved.

Maurice, though, had never drunk alcohol in his life.

Page 3

“Who are you?” bellowed the stony being. “You don’t belong here.”

Maurice tried to answer but his throat was parched and his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth.

“Speak!” roared the giant.

He perceived the giant could not see him and had only a vague idea of his location. The giant walked closer and closer until his shadow fell on Maurice. His blood ran chill as a deathly coldness overtook him.

“Maurice! MAURICE! Wake up!”

He opened his eyes to find the dawn sky, a cold fire, and his next door neighbor wearing red pajamas staring at him and holding a pitchfork. His watch read 6:06:06 A.M.

20 February 2011

Page 2

One day after work Maurice decided to camp out in his backyard. He wanted to ‘get back to nature’ and get used to the outdoor life in case the Trappist life didn’t work out and had to resort to the trappist life in Fairbanks. As night approached, Maurice found himself sitting on the ground stirring the embers of the campfire. He grew sleepy and presently nodded off.

The fire burned low. The dancing flames grew tired and now the embers spent their time flickering messages to one another in varying shades of red. Snap! Pop! A blackened stick broke into three pieces. One landed on a cooler ember and encouraged it to join the conversation. Another ember grew overly animated as it lectured the others. Briefly, he flared up and for a time all drew their attention the the fiery preacher.

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust! From cinder to tree to tinder to crust!”

Then, in fulfillment of his prophesy, the flames leaped and the spirit departed.

Sometime later the moon crept from behind the clouds and nudged Maurice awake. The moon returned to her grey cloudy veils and massaged his mind with the deepest suggestion. How long had the moon lived? Did she see the first man? Did she know the secrets of the longaeva? His spirit grew warmer as dawn approached. The moonbeams rekindled the fire which then transferred its heat to his body. Off in the distance, an owl leaped to wing and descended upon a vole. A family of foxes trooped by just out of sight, paused for a look at the strange two-footed creature, then ambled off on their own business. The moon briefly revealed herself and sent a shaft of reflected light on Maurice. A shiver passed through him as again he nodded. He plunged into a dream.

It was not night; it was not day. It was simply a time that was. There were no stars, moon, or sun, merely a gloomy greyness. He stood on a large wooden platform at sea. Others were present, yet appeared as wraiths or shadows and called out as if in one voice. Not in words…but as beasts in agony…one long continuous groan. The platform rocked slowly and creaked like an old man in his death throes. Water lapped the edges and left frozen images of formless beings in its return to the water chaos. A loud voice bellowed from the midst of the wooden island. It rang of self-assurance, yet echoed a hollow wooden sound as one who remembered authority but had it stripped away in some forgotten past. A great being appeared in the likeness of a man. He looked like an unfinished statue. Stern and without pity, he walked towards Maurice and systematically beat the plankings. The being had no name, but destruction was his intent.

16 February 2011

The Story Begins

Before we get started, let me say I have no idea where this story will go. It doesn't have a plot, nor does it have a main character. Actually it does have a main character...a Maine character. We'll call him Maurice. Maurice is seriously considering joining a Trappist monastery in Tennessee. And why not?

Maurice is not married. Once, a cashier asked him if he was single and he replied,

"no ma'am. I'm actually plural. I used to be single a very long time ago, but then I discovered Id and Ego. They're my invisible friends in a...um...very very complicated way."

The cashier miscalculated his change and so he donated the proceeds to Charity. A pretty homeless lass who made basket cases for a living.

Maurice hasn't had a girlfriend in 13 years...thirteen long and very unlucky years. The very thought of holding a girl's hand brings tears to his eyes. This used to bother him when it occurred in public, but some time ago he aquired a taste for Vidalia onions and garlic bread. Now when he weeps spontaneously in public, he blames it on the food.

This story is a happy one-really. Only Maurice doesn't know it yet.

Maurice hails from the little town of Bethel, Maine. Bethel is located halfway between Gilead (not that Gilead) and Paris (not that Paris.) I've never been to Gilead, or Paris, or even Maine (yes-that one) for that matter so you can just imagine what the places look like. Bethel, I'm sure, has a lot of churches and gets cold in the winter. Maurice doesn't live there anymore. He moved to Goshen. The Goshen in Virginia with warmer winters and less churches.

Thirteen years is quite a long time to live a monastic life without a monastery while still maintaining an air of normalcy in public. In private, it's easy as long as one keeps busy and maintains a prayer life. It's only natural Maurice wants to be a monk. It's peaceful and quiet. There's the free rent. And one gets to wear the same brown uniform-like the fellows in prison or the United States Forest Service.

Maurice believes with his whole heart that this is his life's calling. Now Maurice may or may not join the Brotherhood of Trappists. He may move to Alaska and work as a trappist-collecting beaver pelts and selling the fur to support his onion and garlic habits. Somehow, I think his life is about to change.

13 February 2011

Silence is Golden

"Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquillity of nature by pretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone. The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion. God is present, and His thought is alive and awake in the fullness and depth and breadth of all the silences of the world. The Lord is watching in the almond trees [Jer 1.11, 12]. . . Whether the plane pass by tonight or tomorrow . . . whether the liner enters the harbor full of tourists or full of soldiers, the almond tree brings forth her fruit in silence.
"There are some men for whom a tree has no reality until they think of cutting it down . . . men who never look at anything until they decide to abuse it and who never even notice what they do not want to destroy. These men can hardly know the silence of love: for their love is the absorption of another person's silence into their own noise. And because they do not know the silence of love, they cannot know the silence of God . . . Who is bound, by His own law of Charity, to give life to all those whom He draws into His own silence."

--Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island