Last night, we went to a Mardi Gras festival at our local Arts Park. We went with friends, their child, friends of friends, and the two girls of one of the friends. We loaded up the wagon and decided that it wasn't going to rain and off we went.
As we settled our blankets, I looked up and saw the constellation Orion. I thought about a week ago, when I looked up into the South Carolina sky and saw a much more vivid version of Orion. I had that moment of surreal feeling thinking about how much ground I'd covered (both literally and figuratively) in a week.
It was chilly last week at the monastery, but not as bad as it could have been: no snow, no sleet, no scraping the windows of the car. Still, I wore 3-4 layers, plus a coat when I went outside. Last night was temperate, until later in the evening when the breeze picked up. Still, we could sprawl on the ground and listen to music--many people love this time of year best in South Florida, when we can walk from the house to the car without sweating through our clothes.
I thought about the silence of the monastery, such a difference from the amplified festivity of last night. At one point last night, I thought, I have never been in one place that has so many toddlers in my life. I loved watching the young kids running and tumbling and meeting each other. The adults all seemed in a pleasant mood too, which doesn't always happen when so many children and their parents gather. No one was screaming, no one grabbed their child with too much harshness. It was wonderful.
The lines for the food vendors were very long, so two members of our group went over to the grocery store and returned with a wonderful picnic. I don't always like fried chicken: it resembles the original animal too much for me (bones, the layers of muscle, tendons, yikes!). But last night, the chicken had just been pulled out of the fryer, and it was fabulous.
We ate our chicken, potato salad, and cole slaw, and we washed it down with beer and red wine that we'd brought with us. What a treat! Even the red wine spills didn't drain our good spirits.
As we walked home to the friend's house where we'd all met, one friend said, "Any night that leaves you covered with chicken grease and red wine stains is a good night."
This morning, I thought about the monks who end each day sprinkled with holy water at the end of Compline service (my favorite service of the day, if I'm honest). I thought about the children last night, who at some point, collapsed into sleep surrounded by adults who kept watch--not so different from the deep sleep I experience after Compline. Some day, I'm likely to write a poem that juxtaposes the idea of holy water and chicken grease and red wine and the deep slumber that comes after great satisfaction.
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