You can hum the song below while you’re reading, if you like.
A million years ago, otherwise known as February, I brought my alb home from church for cleaning. I washed it, I dried it, and I hung it up on the closet door to take it back to church.
For about three weeks after I did this, I couldn’t find one of my dryer balls. (Sorry for the Maytag commercial – it was the quickest way to describe what a dryer ball is). I looked in drawers and under furniture – no dice. (Also no dryer ball.)
Coincidentally, I kept forgetting to take the alb back to church.
On Ash Wednesday, I remembered. This was back in those quaint months when we actually went to church in person, otherwise known as February 26. I put on all my vestments, including my nice clean alb, and went to stand with the rest of the altar party (which was one person – we’re a small church; he was crucifer, lay Eucharistic minister, and acolyte all in one.)
As we were waiting to go in, right after we prayed, in an atmosphere of the most solemn and reverent sort, I put my hand into my alb pocket and pulled out. . .a dryer ball. Mr. Altar Party and I had a lengthy and completely silent fit of giggles, then I put the dryer ball back in my pocket (because where else was I going to put it at that moment?) and went in and led everyone in a solemn and reverent service remembering their mortality and preached a Christological reading of Avengers: Endgame. We are all dust, and Thanos can kill us with a breath (well, a snap); but there is one power greater than death, and only that power will triumph.
You can stop and listen to the sermon, or the end of it anyway, now if you’d like.
In retrospect, it almost seems like an omen.
I don’t know why. There is no logical, or sacramental, or doctrinal connection between the persistent dryer ball that unaccountably made its way into the Ash Wednesday service and the pandemic that somewhat more accountably made its way into our selves, our souls and bodies, our hearts and minds, our streets and stores, our restaurants and our theaters, and our churches. But there seems to be a metaphorical one. All these long months, I feel like I’ve had this lost dusty thing in my pocket.
This past week, three things that mattered very much to me got snapped. The two yoga studios that have framed much of my life since I moved to Kentucky both shut their brick and mortar operations down because COVID, and a friend who for years has run a perfectly marvelous Inklings conference which featured everything from top-notch scholarship and premieres of art and drama to late-night sing-alongs to tea and lemon bars and kite flying is not going to be doing that any more. (This just-past summer’s conference had already been canceled, because COVID.)
A couple of nights ago I had a dream that I used to have all the time and haven’t for a year or so: that I had suddenly discovered many extra rooms in my house, full of many extra things (in most iterations of the dream, they are things that previous owners left behind.)
In the middle of the usual voyage of self-discovery this dream entails, though, the scene changed. My two daughters were running through a field, flying a kite. It was a perfect day, lit with the beautiful sunlight you only normally get in stock photos. I was eating a lemon bar. My pockets were empty of everything, even dryer balls.
We are all dust, and Thanos can kill us with a breath; but there is one power greater than death, and only that power will triumph.
I reached out to fly the kite with them, but they kept running, always just the slightest bit out of reach.
Everybody sing now…