All Saints' Episcopal Church sits on the water the furthest point from my flat. It's already a twenty minute walk into St. Andrews, another ten to make it from the gate to the ruins of St. Mary's cathedral, a sharp left down an alley to the rod iron gate with nickel brushed grapes as insignia on the front behind which, in the whispered thin places, is the church. I'm in the kitchen of the flat, slicing cucumber to infuse in gin. There is rhythm in the slicing along with the ticking hand of the clock, an ordered counting of slices to ounces, a cocktail shaker half-filled, placed in the refrigerator. I sit at the dining table with the bloomed roses. I count the rhythm with the clock.
Inside, the church is old stone and perhaps even older glass. It keeps the cold a bit too well, even in the mild days of summer, and Tom-clad feet, foreign to this ground, feel the chill snake up around the ankle and bite. I am, like this journey, amongst the unknown. But in the corner I can see them kneeling, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament they have convened.
When I left the boulangerie and headed toward the art gallery, I had the awareness that they would decline my portfolio. Instinct or Holy Ghost, when I arrived they spoke of the pieces as interesting, as quite exciting, as something they would like to see again, but did not have need of at present. I nodded. I understood. I felt nothing of disappointment as much as curious worrying. The old sense of worrying. Not anxiety but overworking of a subject: what am I? What am I? What am I?
I bow to the alter, though I am uncertain of the common practice. We common people, of common prayer, separated by an ocean, have a different way about these things. They kneel on cushions, which I navigate awkwardly. They speak their responses quickly, whereas I am used to slow determination. The confession of sin comes earlier than I am used to and we stay seated instead of bowing, they say something different after the Gospel, and I still cling to, "Praise be to thee, Lord Christ," like a child adopted too late in life to the nursemaid of youth.
I keep the French doors in the kitchen open as I bake and write. I imagine that between the food and the wine and the openness, this shall be an easy space to fill. I consider the chapters I have to complete--my own book, one for someone else--the emails I have yet to respond to because somewhere in flying over the ocean I folded into myself that piece of me that was good about being responsive. I feel tired, well beyond jet lag, all the time. I think this might have something to do with choosing joy, a thought I only bring out when it is absolutely appropriate, since most of the time it's rubbish. I think this might have something to do with choosing joy.
What does not change is the moment we acknowledge Christ being made present unto us. What does not change is the moment I bow low when it is said that this is unto us Body, unto us Blood. What does not change is the sense I have that what is happening is part of the eternal, universal drama of God's redemptive work, and that I, as always, feel no more than awed by beauty. I hear no whisper of Him in my ear, I feel no sudden exuberance to worship, but I am left in complete, full certainty that Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ shall come again.
I sit at the dining room table on my birthday and force myself to write. I haven't forced myself to write in weeks and the atrophy in my fingers alarms me. The atrophy of my soul should alarm me more, but I concede the recognition of this is a form of progress out from it. I suppose the word would be the need for attentiveness. There's are things I can see as if but out of the corner of my eye, or like twinkling things peeking from 'neath a film being slowly scraped away. I'm uncertain what He's unearthing, whether it requires me to change or simply reorient, but there is a stir in the water and I need to be found ready.
The walk home feels shorter than the walk there. Once town is left, the few angled houses navigated, the whole is taken over by the trees. The trees, large and full, overhanging the roadway and rustling with their old whispers--old like the stones, the stained glass. I think of the things that need doing: the laundry, the bread for dinner, the book that I've meant to read for a month, the email I was supposed to answer in May. Then I slow to a stop and stand beneath the trees in the middle of Scotland, in the middle of my birthday, in the middle of worrying out the question of what I am.
"This is now," I confess to the air. "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." And I cross myself on the path toward our flat as a pharmacy truck speeds past, then continue on my way.