During the closing worship gathering at the Glen, each year there is an anointing. Consecrated oil is handed to a few de facto elders of the group, who stand in the front, as at stations, and the assembly lines up as they choose. It’s the tools of art-making that receive the anointing: hands, mostly, but throats and foreheads (for the mind behind the bone) as well.
Two Augusts ago, in my first year, I happened to stand in Luci Shaw’s line. She is the poet emerita of the Glen, and of Image Journal which sponsors it. She is a Big Noise there, though an unprepossessing and warm soul in herself. As a first-timer, and a somewhat isolated one at that, I didn’t recognize her until afterward. And I presume she would have recognized Adam-the-father-of-us-all long before she would know who I was.
Yet as I stood mute before her, hands out, she murmured, “A poet.” And prayed poem-blessings over me as she touched the oil to my palms.
What a startling gift!
This past August, I knew my faces a little better. I chose to stand in the line closest to me more because my classmate-friend Brian held that station than because it was in Good Order. Though the latter certainly reinforced my choice!
Brian is a pediatrician in his larger calling and work-for-hire, though he is also a poet. In his social connectedness and ease I could see that he is deeply woven into the Glen’s community. The poems that he shared with the class have strength and vividness, even the one he asked us to help him fix because it was “a mess and all over the place.” In fact, neither I nor the rest of us could find the mess he saw there, though I made a stab at seeing mess through his eyes.
Brian’s belonging-ness, to me, is obvious. Foundational. And as I interacted with him all week I’d felt like a small plant growing next to a hefty rock, one that reflects the sun’s warmth even as it shades from direct scorching. My Glen-roots started feeling stronger in part because I made friends with Brian.
I enjoy sharing sacramental moments with people who know my name because it reinforces my feeling-connection to the holy Community, “the holy catholic church,” as stated in the Apostles’ Creed. So I was happy, and shiny, as I ever-so-patiently made my way to the front.
We stood before each other, and I smiled as I held out my hands. Brian took them, and said, “Kimbol, you should be anointing me,” and proceeded to pray for my work, and our art.
I can’t tell you his prayer. Because with that first statement, my heart cracked open and my mind slid sideways. Tears fell down my cheeks as oil slipped along the seams of my fingers: what am I to do with THAT, Brian?!
How is it Brian sees me as one with authority, with connectedness, whose benediction would recharge his art and his work and release him for another year’s creations?
I still don’t know. I haven’t yet seen what he saw. All I can do is hold this new gift, even as I cherish this year’s anointing, If I look again and again, maybe someday I will understand what Brian knows. Maybe then I can live fully what he sees in me.