The broken-walled Church was closed and, desperate, the young clerk, lately unemployed, knocked on the tall, double wooden doors. It was a mid-week morning before he set off on his job search, again.
No one answered. He was beyond concern for the little rules you have so much respect for until you lose respect for them understanding which ones are made to be broken.
He walked behind the alter. There in a hovel, like an ancient phone-booth, was the young priest, recently transferred from Argentina to start his ministry.
“Sit down, my son. Please, what is wrong?”
The priest was clearly younger than the man.
“Father, can you help me? I mean can we talk? I am lost. I am ashamed even of saying such a thing, such a cliche.”
“No, no, sit down. It is very strange. I was feeling so similar and I tried telling it to myself in a way that would restore my hope.”
“Why don’t I just read what I was writing to God, this morning.”
The room smelled of incense and oak wood walls and emptiness.
“I started here. I started writing right here, well, yes, here it is. I’ll just start. Yes, here it is. There was a strong, a very strong smell in the air yesterday. It was not yellow or green or blue. It was under all of that and the light could not touch it. The smell was old but it had not aged. I knew the smell and yet I had never smelled it before.
“It reminded me of our ancient, all-common, ancestors who came here from far away on a one-way passage. Some of our ancestors lived among the trees and hills and animals of North America. Some of them came from lands so old and so far and so isolated that none of the New World seeped into their bodies, even to this day and all is still young for them and wild and open and opening.
“Which of these ancestors never saw their parents again. What does a parent think of its child? Again, I am talking to you. Who can know the limits of what a child can think of its parent?
“There goes the wind beneath all the houses we sleep in so soundly and so restlessly. All the same, there goes the wind beneath them. There they all are now asleep beside the green on the boughs of the heavy trees and the tall palms of the western seaboard and the fertile forest of the coniferous North. All the same in the houses built all differently, either from mud or from wooden boards or plastics where the Hydrocarbons rain like manna from heaven.
“I ask, the historian in me must ask, was Ahab real? Was Melville real? Who wrote who between them? Tell me, Lord, access it and carry pieces of it to my window where I can dream about the simplest stories of time. Tell the Argentinian about America, strangest place I’ve fallen into, like Conrad’s dream of being dropped into the sea of life and the more you try to climb out of it, the more drowned you become, until you accept it and swim in the stuff instead, finding the life, that earlier would suffocate you.
“Out of me, go, all the old things we would often say. Welcome, new in the New World where all the green begins to smell alive. Nature is not, please listen to me, the bird on the ledge. Nature is the vibration of the clock on the wall. Thus, the new world was never a particular section of land amid the seas. Lose your own idea, recycled from afar, of what you think of your history. Get lost outside of it. Turn a rock over inside your mind. Let all the worms and colorful bugs wiggle out from beneath it.
“Set sail and say your goodbyes. Hug for eternity’s sake. Do you ever wish you were somewhere else, somebody else? Go, no one is stopping you, traveler with a thousand ready horses and a million flapping, hardy, sunlit canvas sails popping your attention to main-mast.
“Boil a cup of whale oil harvested before you were born and listen to its smell. Listen to The Moon and Sixpence. Allow for known observers of known spirits, your own spirits and your own totems to them. It is all new, now. Go. Forget about the significance of names. We all share the same name here. That is not your significance.
“Did you know that you were born here and forgotten, like so many millions of seeds planted by the farmer, all equally significant to him? Did you know the immigrant spirit is seasonal? Did you know that is the Lesson of America? Did you know it begins all again at the top of every hour, as the sun respects its own, circumnavigation without moving an inch?
“A cliche lives inside your belly as well as in your breath. But, judgment does not. There is no significance to a cliche as cliche. Stop delivering such judgments. That is the washed up oar that cracked mid-voyage. Pretend that it was a sacred passage to your holy hearth on live earth. Pretend it was the sponge that absorbed the glory of mankind in God’s own eyes.
“What is this about? This is about the song of your present history. This is the before-dying deliverance of who you are. This is a song. It is all now, knowing, forgotten and clean. But it is still but a little song. Think of it as a battle hymn, the immigrants battle hymn.
“Go into it, my son. That is the only lesson of history, built on the bent backs of your strange people. It is this: The boiling bulb atop the volcanic fount where nothing streams aside the spiraling Mount Vesuvius. It bubbles and recedes. That is life? That is a life, traveler, pardoner, gambler, night-time fury of a thousand gray running wolves in the deepest green of the forested North.”
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 15 years since my last confession.”
“Bless you, my son.”