Singing the Kyrie

I was as surprised as anyone to love it.

I grew up in churches without a formal liturgy, that is, the kind handed down in books and tradition and rituals smoothed by time and use. Going to formal churches with friends or family, the kinds of churches with chants and incense and bowing, made me feel like I was about to break out in hives. It felt like unnecessary human rigamarole. Couldn’t we just come to God? Why did we need all this posturing?

Read the rest of my article about liturgy over at the Mudroom.

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Rain and a walk

Yesterday I gathered my things and went for a walk–library books, a snack, journal, water and iced tea and wallet. The sky was half gray, half blue. There wasn’t far to go; the library is right down the road, and next to that is a little park, half taken up by some kind of game pit, rectangular and half-full of hardened sand. The edges are planted with flowers, and there is a gazebo off to one side.

I had one book to finish reading, a few sections to read from others (I am drowning in library due dates and determined to return books), and I sat down in the gazebo, on one of its strange four-person picnic tables. I placed my tea on my right, water on my left, and began reading. When I needed to pause, I could admire the bumble bees and butterflies on the flowers, or, later, listen to the rain.

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Something about rain I find expansive. I love the sound of rain, splashing and pattering. I adore the cool, wet air that blows through when you sit just out of a storm’s reach, and how rich colors turn when the skies are dark with clouds.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve reveled in silence and solitude, what with podcasts and Netflix and to do lists and so much else, but yesterday I did. I wanted to drink it in, glory in it, sit there until the sun came out again.

Water Damage

I went for a walk yesterday.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: it was cloudy, but not dark-rain-clouds cloudy. Just a normal gray. It wasn’t even that windy. So I went for a walk.

I will admit, mostly I was looking for Pokemon on Pokemon Go. I love that game. But I brought my journal, because I was planning on sitting in the park for a while and catching up on journaling. I had some thoughts to work through.

And then, as soon as I got to the park, it started raining. No big deal, I thought. It was just little drops, and I love getting wet in the rain. There were still games going on at the baseball fields. It was getting windy, which is never a good sign. I started to walk the walking path. By the time I hit the first turn, it was raining. The ball players were running for cover. The rain was slanting in the wind. By then it was pouring. I gave up on the enjoyment of getting wet and pulled out my umbrella, which I held at an angle for the rest of the walk because of the wind.

When I got home, everything in my backpack was soaked. I had to peel apart my voter ID, which for some inexplicable reason is not laminated, and lay out my other papers in a row. When I hung my backpack up to dry, it dripped. But my journal seemed dry enough.

When I opened it this morning, though, there was one wet spot, soaked through the bottom of every page. Every page. Some pages were fine, the ink undisturbed, but others were completely illegible blotches of color. It looked like I’d taken watercolor to the bottoms on my journal pages. My words, my thoughts, were erased.

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I was surprised how much it hurt. It’s been years since I’ve gone back and read my journals. Sometimes I take notes for projects in there, but none of the notes I still needed had been destroyed by the water. Sometimes I outline bits I may want to come back to later, and some of that was destroyed, but let’s be honest–I have bits from five and ten years ago that I’ve never gone back to, and even more bits that I’ve utterly forgotten.

Still it hurt.

Ferra

It was dark; they stumbled and branches reached out for them with screams, but Tristan couldn’t hear it over his rasping breath. The sky was red with fire behind them.

“Keep going,” Erryn rasped. No one argued; there was more than fire behind them.

“There’s the river!” It gurgled, soft whispers under the flame’s roars. Would it be enough? 

“Please, Bregge,” Erryn whispered, falling to her knees on the bank–not from reverence, but from exhaustion. The moon was out, and Brin could see that her silver hair was dark with sweat, her side still black-red with blood. The water shivered out from her whisper like a skittish horse. Tristan tried to help Erryn to her feet, but she groaned, “Get away from me, boy,” barely above a whisper. If they couldn’t cross the river–

“Look!” Brin said, pointing–the river water splashed into a face, perhaps just a trick of the wavering light, and then water swirled and eddied and there was a path for them across the river between rocks and whirlpools. Erryn rose to her feet as if she were a hundred, but without Tristan’s help, and they crossed the river together. 

“No, we still can’t stop,” Erryn said when they had crossed, when she had said her thanks to Bregge. “The king must know of what’s happened tonight.” 

Neither man nor boy argued with the hero.

Brin thought it impossible the king wouldn’t know already–not because of his royal magic, but because it seemed impossible that everyone didn’t know, didn’t see how the world had shifted and darkened. Hadn’t everyone else also felt that moment when Ferra fell, the magic dripping from her fingers with her blood, its joyful dance stilled at last? Hadn’t everyone else seen the world waver to its very foundations with grief at such joy and love and beauty gone? destroyed? sacrificed in a vain ploy to stop the evil that chased them still? Hadn’t the tragedy of it stopped time for everyone, and not just for him? 

He’d longed for magic his whole life, for his own connection to the light and fire and motion that everyone else around him seemed to take for granted, but never so much as then, that moment when she had stayed to fight and he had fled. It should have been him. What was a boy without his mother? What was a husband without his wife, his love? 

It should have been him, but the choices had been her or their son, and that was no choice at all.

“Remember,” she’d said to Tristan, her hands on his cheeks, her eyes glinting, and he said it over and over as he took a step, a step, a step, because nothing else felt real, and he was tired, and he didn’t know what it meant–”Remember.” As if he could ever forget his mother, with her laughter, her long hair, the games they’d played, and the lessons about magic. He’d felt the magic growing in her, waiting, preparing, ready to crash down when she released it, and he’d been surprised it had looked beautiful rather than strong, like a dance rather than a tidal wave. How could she think he would forget her? His mother? He missed her already, missed eating breakfast together and the way she hummed in quiet moments and the steady clack-clack-clack of her loom at night. He could never forget her.

It was dawn when Erryn finally permitted them to stop. The pink and orange of the sunrise was too beautiful for such a morning, with the ugly blue-black smoke still rising up from behind them, with grief choking them all. Father and son slept, curled together, each holding on to the last thing they had left in the world. Erryn didn’t sleep, only paced. She couldn’t sleep–wasn’t sure she’d wake up, wasn’t sure the hard, bitter pit in her chest would let her. 

What had she done? She’d sworn to stop Jyrren at all costs, but this was too high a cost, far too high–her sister, her only sister, sacrificed. And in vain, too, for smoke rose behind them still. Every tree that burned was more power for Jyrren, and Ferra’s efforts had failed. 

They all had.

Jyrren had, to try something so foolish; she had, to not see his plans truly. Ferra had, she supposed, although she knew her sister, knew that she had thrown everything she had into the counter spell. The fault lay with her, not Ferra: a lack of instruction, a failure of sight, some detail she’d forgotten to impart to her sister. But what? 

And what now? Their last resort had failed; Jyrren grew stronger behind them, and they had fled like cowards. It felt cowardly, although she knew there was nothing they could have done. Nothing; she had been running through it all in her head since it happened, and there was nothing else they could have done, nothing they had left untried.

It just hadn’t been enough, and she may as well have killed her own sister.

It was time to walk again. The king needed to know what had happened, but mostly Erryn needed to silence her grief. She roused the others and they set off again, walking away from the smoke still and pretending they fled from nothing else.


 

Welcome! Once again I’m taking part in Rosalie Valentine‘s Flash Fiction Dash. This year my genre was Sword and Sorcery, and my prompt was:

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So yeah, never gonna be a happy one.

I hope you enjoyed it, and check in in a few days for the wrap-up post from Rosalie; it’s always wonderful to read what others have written.

By the Lake

I just had time for a walk, I decided. It was the last day by the lake; we had to be out by 10 am, and there was still cleaning and packing to do, but there was still time for a walk, I decided.

It was almost chilly; there was mist between the trees, and I wished for just one more layer than my sweater. It was silent; sunbeams peeked between the trees on one side, the misty lake on the other.

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The beach access wasn’t far. It took me maybe six minutes to walk there. I slowed down as I struggled against the sand, each step taking more effort in its deep softness. Trees gave way to beach grass, and I could see the blue and gray of the sky stretching from trees to horizon.

Once I was at the water, I stopped. It lapped softly at the pebbles of the beach, a vivid demarcation of water and land. I looked for the high tide mark before remembering that lakes don’t have tides, that there was no smell of salt in the air. The pebbles were smooth and a veritable rainbow, for pebbles: greys and browns and tans, with a few that were white or black or dotted and spotted and streaked with several colors and shades. I picked a few up, rubbed the sand off, put them back. I wanted to find one to take home and use as a worry stone, but in the end I decided to leave it as I found it.

The water whispered in rhythm. Again I watched it come in and out, in and out. The edges of the water curled, broke, retreated, but otherwise the lake was almost still. It was a moment of self-presence, a moment where I could drink in the beauty and let it make me brave enough to sit with myself, to listen to myself.

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And then I checked my phone for the time. It was probably time to head back, to pack and have breakfast and strip the beds and say my goodbyes. Walking back, picking my way over the sand again and watching a red-wing blackbird flee from my clumsy presence, walking more confidently on the road, I rejoiced in this moment I’d had, how small it had been. It had been fifteen minutes since I left the house, on a tiny beach. These moments of beauty and stillness didn’t need hours, didn’t need something exactly right, didn’t need a set time. They could happen in a few moments. And I rejoiced in that, too.

A Hike

The trees towered over me. It was quiet, other than scattered bird songs and the occasional car, almost distant.

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I was going for a hike.

The last time I went for a hike, I had a friend in town. That was almost a year ago. I was feeling–not frazzled so much as exhausted–emotionally more than physically, after Easter, after the Sri Lanka bombings and Rachel Held Evans’ death. I wanted to go do something refreshing, something that gives me joy.

This was a wildflower reserve, and I love flowers. Not planted-in-a-row flowers–they’re pretty, sure, but really I love wildflowers, scattered in the oddest of places when they’re not blanketing the ground. And I love bee watching, the unexpected beauty of bees and their dedication, their glinting or striped or fuzzy bodies.

So there I was. In the woods, searching for refreshment?, for peace. I brought a book; I had my phone camera. I walked along, and saw some beautiful flowers, some beautiful bees. I sat and read for a while. I watched a bumble bee queen search for a nest.

And it was fine. It wasn’t great; I wasn’t filled with immediate peace the second I stepped onto the path. It wasn’t terrible; it was fun to see the flowers and search for bees, guess at names and categories long after I’ve forgotten the technical terms. It was just… normal. There was nothing transcendent about it. (It was too humid for that.)  It was good.