Wednesday, April 9, 2014

for whom the bell tolls

Across the road from where my office is, there is a Catholic hospital.  Sometimes I think hospitals and doctor’s offices are taking over the entire planet.  In this area where I live, I’m sure it’s because not only are the majority of us fat sloths,  many of us already have cancer or are developing it because of all the steel, chemical, and coke plants along the river.  The health care business is booming here in the Ohio River valley, unfortunately. 
Anyway, about a year ago, the hospital installed a loudspeaker/sound system so they can broadcast a replication of Big Ben.  On the half-hours, they play a short hymn.  At 12:30 in the afternoon, the hymn is always Amazing Grace, played slightly out of tune.  This is all OK, I’m not complaining.  Still, I imagine a system such as this cost plenty of money and surely the money could have been put to better use somehow.  The clocky-sounds emitted by this feat of technology do not enrich my perception of our civilization.  

Many mornings, I come into work just as Big Ben is sounding 8:00.  If it starts while I’m still out in the parking lot, it makes me feel like Cinderella escaping the ball before the clock strikes midnight.  Hurry!!! My beautiful dress will become rags and my glass slippers will disappear when I hear that last *BONG*.  Actually, it’s more like I imagine myself changing into a pumpkin...I can't even imagine myself as Cinderella in that story.  If I ever become a pumpkin, I hope it will be a tall, dark, warty one with deep furrows….that’s my favorite kind.  They have so much more character than the smooth, round, bright orange ones. 

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Catholics, their rituals, and their clothes.  As a girl, I use to feel sorry for Catholic kids because they had to wear uniforms to school.  I saw school uniforms as a precursor to the habits and robes worn by nuns and monks.  In the town I grew up in, we had a monastery that sat on top of a hill.  It was surrounded by deep woods and a very tall black iron fence that went all around it.  The buildings inside were made of stone, and there were iron bars over many of the windows and doors.  There were stone paths inside and outside the compound and sometimes I saw nuns and monks walking the paths and whispering to each other.  The monks wore robes with hoods.  In my mind, monks were very mysterious and creepy.  Many of them had full beards.  When they had their hoods up over their heads, they looked like members of a witch coven.  When I was young, I thought all Catholic kids had to become nuns and monks and live in monasteries.  I was truly grateful not to be born Catholic.

As a girl, I loved to climb that thick-wooded hill, walk the perimeter of the iron fence surrounding the monastery, and spy on people.  I imagined myself to be James Bond, or someone from Mission Impossible, or Man from U.N.C.L.E.  When nobody was out and about, sometimes I crawled under the fence and got a closer look at things inside the compound.  The trees were huge and there was lots of honeysuckle and bushes which made good cover for hiding.  The place was quiet, like a cemetery, and somehow holy…or maybe I only imagined it was holy because of all those Catholic people living there.  I sometimes wondered if spying on Catholics was evil, and if God would cause something bad to happen to me for doing it.  Nothing bad ever happened, so apparently God was OK with it.    

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