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Iceberg Analogy

Dear Sarah,
It was only the first week back but already St. Hildegarde's ever-familiar halls are like a second home to me. I was happy to be among the girls again, full of renewed energy (they need it to take them to the end of term), some of them bronzed, eyes open wider than in February, most of them perky and visibly restored by their two weeks away from the stressful routine. In my studio I'm working on duets, fun for them as they get to pair up with a partner, a way of getting them back to the piano The greyness and dullness doesn't even touch me when I'm involved in music in some way, accompanying my clarinet playing colleague, practising by myself in spare moments or singing with the choir. Beethoven is a powerful soother and I can easily lose myself in the lyrical slow movements of one of his sonatas. You want empathy? Drama? No shoulder needed to cry on. Just go to your piano and play the Pathetique or pop in your CD and listen to his Pastoral Symphony. 
Too bad Francine didn't get around to me on Monday. Fair is fair though, with eight people ready to roll and just two hours in which to do them justice. Worth getting all the gems about scene, flashback, point of view and clarity: not that we haven't heard it all before. I loved her iceberg analogy ... some of the most important things aren't even on the page. 
It's interesting how your early morning spirit guide meditation is similar to my talking with all the 'newly' dead each and every morning in the car when I drive to school. I too address the very recent ones first, like my cousin, asking them if they feel free now and where they are and how do we appear to them on this side ... struggling fools? I'm convinced of the presence of the dead, all part of the package of the whole person and his or her place in the universe. How could it possibly be over with such finality, with that one last breath? Gut wrenching. No wonder Carlo reads Donne and Dickinson: a satisfying literary preparation for the one sure thing in life other than birth. 
I want to reread your Opera Lady. But already on my first read-through it gave me absolute chills. Scary how the mentally ill can roam the streets and what can happen to them. You have captured it beautifully! Andrew Pyper in his Killing Circle (my present reading) also touches on Toronto street life with all its precariousness and risk. I'll bring the book.
Here finally is the piece I’ve been working on all week: I'm trying to convey what it was like in 'those days' to be an eight year old, out with her mother on a Saturday afternoon, where paying a visit to a large city church in between shopping was commonplace. At Art Square Francis and I got nostalgic comparing notes about this very topic of devotion. Patriotism, roots and loyalty, strong bonds that tie. Our next tête-à-tête: Rising Artist Cafe where Moira has her art show. He actually said he'd like to come. More on that saga later!
Meet on Monday at Koerner. Lots of reading to do.  
 I feel like I am inside a spun cocoon. It's very warm and comfy. I feel it the whole time my mother and I are inside the cathedral. I think about Jesus and how he cured the daughter of Jairus. Just like that, she got up off her bed and stood up, to everyone's amazement. My mother read that story to me a lot. The picture in my children's Bible is all pastels of blue and orange and there is a yellow halo around the head of Jesus and the girl's cheeks are flushed pink. His apostles stand around him wearing their long robes. They see him do the deed. His followers have moustaches and long hair and there are cloths draped over their shoulders and backs, like people in stories of India. My mother points to the holy water. Together we each dip our right hand into the coolness of the stone font by the padded leather doors where we always come in. We make the sign of the cross and genuflect together. My mother’s eyes immediately search for the tabernacle in the sanctuary. A square golden box sits high up on the marbled floor on a table far past the altar railing where no one else is allowed except the priest and the altar boys, to say Holy Mass. My mother's lips move quietly. She is whispering to someone I cannot see. 
        I crane my neck up towards the massive pipe organ. Little naked cherubs float in space and everything is so very silent. Long strips of pink ribbon twine around the strings of their baby lyres. “Why do their eyes roll upwards like that back into their heads?” I wonder. “What are they looking at?” When we reach our favourite side altar, the Blessed Virgin stretches out her hands as if she is saying, ‘ come, and sit for a little bit’. She is dressed in layers of white and blue material that hang down to the floor covering her feet. No one can disturb us here, my mother and I, together in this little cool alcove of peace.  We kneel in silence on the cracked, brown leather of the prie-dieu. It squeaks and sags in the middle bent from the weight of everyone who has ever knelt there for hundreds of years before us. The sisters at school tell us that Jesus will always answer our prayers but we have to ask honestly. A thousand bright lights flicker in the metal candle trough in front of us. The melting wax drips into the white sand and the heat of the fire warms my face. It is a miniature bright heaven inside the darkness of Saint Catharine's Cathedral. 
Pillars of stone stretch up into the blue dome above my head. I don't mind the dizziness in my head when I look up. I love everything: the smell of the freshly waxed wood, the smell of the candles that have just finished burning, the incense that hangs above us like clouds from the three o'clock benediction. Wide bands of sunlight stream in through the highest stained glass windows and cut through the smoke just like they do on the holy pictures I collect. Is St. Francis blinking at the sharpness of the incense? The light half hides his face but not the bird he holds in his hands. Deeply I inhale all the mysterious substances. My eyes are closed. I know that any moment now my mother will ask me to pray with her, to say a little prayer, a shooting prayer that shoots right up to heaven and tells Jesus our request – a schietgebedje.
Someone stifles a phleghmy cough and my eyes dart quickly toward my mother. She is lighting the candle. Her hand is steady and seems especially long because of the wooden matchstick she uses to reach another burning candle from which she borrows fire. The flame is instant and our tapered candle will be secure in its tiny cup for many days to come. Smiling down at me she reaches for my chubby hand. "Adria, shall we pray for a moment?” she whispers, her breath hot in my ear. “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with Thee …”

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