it started with sport shoes

Tim drove yesterday morning, while I checked my visor mirror for scarf slideage. "I'm nervous," I repeated.

He steered us past a few people at bus stops, cars meandering in their lanes, houses where I'm sure folks slept in, the way I've done many Sunday mornings. "Why?" he asked. "You've come several times."

"Yes, but that was different. Now I want to do this."

I was referring to details of ritual. We were on our way to church at St. John's Serbian Orthodox, the place Tim and our daughter have been attending services regularly while I slept in or ran on my treadmill.

The church I have continued going to is our same old one, a lovely one, I think. Sparse on ritual. It meets Sunday afternoons. Tim almost always comes with me, after a full morning at St. John's and sometimes doing repair work around the Orthodox community's building. Even though he has also started going to St. John's Saturday night Vigil most weeks, he comes with me Sunday afternoon.

Tim has explained that he really likes doing it all.

After one more tug on my blue-sparkled scarf, making sure it would keep covering my head in the tradition of the St. John's women, I followed Tim inside the building. We passed beneath bells that hang between pillars along the front walkway. Tim reminded me he would be assisting Mark, who rings bells during the service.

"Okay," I said, thinking, I have practiced. I can do what the rest do, even if he's not beside me. Inhaling, I clasped my hands.

Despite my trepidation, the morning went very well. For the first time, standing in the candles' glow and listening to "Lord have mercy" and crossing myself and even bowing to others gave me a sense of something like peace. At least, my feelings were far from panic. My ears heard the words being chanted, and my heart knew and loved them. Mostly. Some of it is still so different. A little weird. But now, I want this ceremony in my life. And quite rightly you may wonder why.



I would never have expected it that normal-seeming weekday. It was ten or so mornings ago; I lay in bed a while before I must get up and shower. Usual sounds came from the living room -- Tim opened the creaky woodstove door and built a fire. My thoughts drifted, swirled, bounced around. A happyish theme developed, sort of a count-your-blessings moment. I was glad about stuff like intriguing talks with people and being gifted with good sport shoes.

Then something else happened. Depending on your perspective, either many things came together inside me or God spoke. Nudged, maybe. Anyway, something I haven't considered existing as any possible spec of reality was at that moment lying directly in front of me. The thought: I really need to consider this. The next thought: oh, no I don't. And then: uh, oh.

I pictured an ocean liner making ready to sail away. From the dock I stood, waving. Up on deck my dear husband waved back. People milled about him. He only had eyes for me. Such kind, understanding eyes. The ship's name I couldn't read, because it was Russian. Well, technically, Serbian. The big horn sounded, only it rang somehow like church bells.

Wait a minute! What in heaven's name was I doing? Without another thought I scuttled up the gangplank, hoping not to trip...

Half an hour later, Tim and I sat near the woodstove, his arm around me while I -- what can I tell you? -- I sniffled as if we'd truly been about to be separated. I had stumbled out of the bedroom and told him, "I don't want you sailing off to Russia without me." And I had burst into tears.

When I could speak, I asked him if, should I happen to go into Orthodoxy with him, would he consider this a positive or negative thing.

"Positive." He squeezed my shoulder. He smiled.



We have always gone places of faith together, Tim and I. We wouldn't still be a couple if not for a significant spiritual moment or two. He hasn't pushed me in the slightest to become Orthodox. But recently he let me know he will be baptized. Literally, he's taking the plunge.

And me? Well, I'm hanging onto the port railing. Feeling the breeze -- it's bracing, but nice -- thinking that as a writer I might need to explore this journey in phrases, in poetry or something. Because I'm committed. Who knows what the seas ahead will look like? That's me, on the left, smiling. Nervous.

Comments

Carol Webster said…
Bless you both. A special writing. I feel the depth of it. Thank you for sharing. Mom
Cherie said…
I agree with your mom. A very real moment, keenly felt through your description. Congratulations on 'embarking for Russia' together. Makes me want to visit St. Johns for I, too, a missing the ritual, the demonstrative, the gentle and kind.
cecily said…
Thanks Deanna... big moment indeed. I like the importance of togetherness too.
[...] almost all of a sudden, on a journey with Eastern Orthodoxy. My journal, writing notebook, and blog have all been called into service as I process what’s happening in my [...]