The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lessons as a Mentor Leaves the Stage

I have only recently found out that a good friend and mentor is retiring; the Rev. Buddy Stallings, Rector of St. Bartholomew's Church will leave St Bartholomew's Church at the end of May. He writes, in part, that his decision "is as holy in its way as any decision I have ever made, and the gift of that conviction is the deep sense that this is right for me." I think it's important to share this thought--that the felt necessities of life, the various seasons of life, come to us, whether we expect them or not.

Or, as Buddy describes it, a recognition that it is time to embrace radical change. By sharing his feelings about it Buddy has helped his parishioners once again, by illustrating the need to listen for that small still voice in our own lives, and to recognize when those moments arise.

But this isn't an end, in one sense. It's a shift, a change of seasons. It's like Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time; we weave into, and out of, and sometimes back into, each other's lives--the note that you hear as as child recurs, with all its old sweetness, in middle age. And possibly even later.

I tried to capture a sense of that in a chapter of my own novel, in a scene where my young heroine, Clarissa Riley, is present at a dance where all of the major players in the novel--friend and foe, in the lives of her uncle and aunt--are present:
Clarissa Riley watched the dancers from the sidelines with awe; how confidently, how surely they moved. She had been trained since her childhood, but always doubted her ability to move with the grace of her Aunt Marie, laughing as Uncle Phineas propelled her surely, swiftly, about the floor. Or, for that matter, “Uncle” Oswald, galumphing about the dance floor while Aunt Violet patiently, unobtrusively made up for his ragged steps, and sudden lunges. Or, for that matter, that distinguished older couple—the lanky Lady Laura of whom she’d heard so many rumors, sedately waltzing with a slim, lantern-jawed grey-haired old man, with a practiced ease.

She did not recognize every guest at the ball, but many of the dancing pairs, either jointly or singly were familiar to her: Her disturbingly handsome “cousin” Jack, dutifully whirling with a beautiful, if older, woman, garbed in ivory, who gave off a strong impression of danger and avidity, and yet smiled as pleasantly as did a gentle matron; the Prime Minister, carefully steering another striking woman, in a stunning bright blue gown, her red-brown hair cascading down her neck; aging clubman Dolly Longestaffe, with his nondescript but pleasant wife, waltzing in perfect time to the music and each other but with rather less speed and effort than the others.

All these, and many others whom Clarissa did not know, swimming rhythmically amongst a sea of the ruling classes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the British Empire, as guests of the enigmatic Marchioness of Hartletop, whom Clarissa had never even seen.

As the dancers moved through and around each other, as so many of them had indeed moved in and through each other’s lives, and had even in and through Clarissa’s short existence, Clarissa’s desire to spot the woman who had brought them all together beneath one roof became more pointed. She looked around the room, trying to discover her hostess, noted for her extreme loveliness and equally formidable coldness, but could not see her. Those not dancing made an interesting enough show, though, when she admitted the fruitlessness of her quest.

She spotted a clergyman—a bishop, from his apron and gaiters—tall and spare, with a receding hairline and a beaky nose, but with kind eyes, chatting with an old woman—one who had been querulously complaining about the Church with a quacking voice over sherry, but now, wrinkles smoothed quite away, smiled almost charmingly.

An old man, of military mien, but with a jolly smile, obviously a kindly, grandfatherly type, himself scanning the room, sharp eyes picking out and recording interesting features. Further along, another clergyman, indeed, another bishop, this one dark, bearded and saturnine, following the beauty in ivory with his eyes, assessing, thinking—
The metaphor of the dance comforts me; as we say goodbye, it is only for a little while; in the intricate patterns we describe in each other's lives, we can never be sure when we will meet again.

No comments: