Wednesday, August 26, 2009
"Beautiful city, we must part," part 2: The Groans of August
It's time for my yearly post on the month that obsesses my imagination.
This is the first time I've spent my favorite month outside of New York City in many years, and August in Appalachia, at least in my corner of it, has nothing at all in common with August in New York City. Back home in the city, the alert observer could perceive the shift in the position of sunlight and the not-unpleasant burning smell in the air that marked the change from high summer to summer's end, and all the uncertainty and the promise of newness that this strange, shifting time -- the real start of the New Year in New York -- brought with it. Here, there's no sense of change apparent, at least to my senses, which were developed and trained under a different set of circumstances: except for the mist rising from the mountains in the early morning, high summer continues.
I'm still walking around in heartbroken longing for my old city and for many parts of the life I once lived there, but it occurs to me more and more that walking around in heartbroken longing has been a constant in my life at least since adolescence. And the truth is that August, far from being a month worthy of commemoration, has traditionally been for me a month of awful loss and absurd failure. This brings me back to my old dilemma: does God want us to be happy? Or does he perhaps ask those of us who are inclined to grief to suffer it for Him, offering that suffering up for others in the expectant hope that He, in the strange efficacy of His economy of mercy, will use it for their healing and their joy? I know, in spite of all the self-esteem propaganda and New Age relativism I absorbed that told me I was essentially a good person, that I am not in fact a person who deserves joy, and the individuals for whom I most often consciously choose to offer my grief are probably not either. But I think some people need joy in order to live and heal, and I pray that God will give it to them, because He loves them so much.
As anyone who's read this blog for a time knows, I'm a pretty egregious sinner who's made some irrevocably bad decisions that have had dire consequences on the lives of others, as well as on my own. Every day upon waking, the prayer comes to my mind that God might use me for good. But how might He do this? Can the leopard change its spots? I am still that person, that egregious sinner, that, for want of a better word, raging diva. But somehow, since the moment of metanoia that changed my heart in 2002, I'm also a different person. I want to trust that God will find a way to use the raging diva that He saw fit to reform for the purpose of demonstrating His unfathomable mercy to other egregious-sinner chicks like myself. Hopefully He'll make His ways somewhat clearer to me as I walk around, hearbroken with longing in August in Appalachia.
Above: "Dining Room Overlooking the Garden" by Pierre Bonnard, an image that has always looked like August to me.