Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2010.09.29 Liturgical Dance in the Treetops

Seeing the Holy in everything isn’t hard. You have only to release God from “his” ecclesiastical strait jacket, stretch your eye and your soul toward wonder, and be ready to laugh.

Recently at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Margaret in Boston I sat silently with the community eating Cheerios and Raisin Bran, toast with peanut butter, and sipping tea. Today’s headlines were violent, messy and full of pain.

But we were here on Sabbath to worship anyway. No one expected liturgical dance in the outdoor sanctuary of trees and garden.

I will make this ballerina masculine and call her Squirrelster He advanced slowly down the tree trunk, something only critters like him can do with ease, then sprinted out onto a slim and swingy plant holder. He had spied the prize, a beautiful and aromatic purple floral plant suspended from its flimsy hanger. Out he went undeterred by flimsiness until he took his final leap, nose first into the plant. All that was visible was his tail—wildly swinging, curling, twisting, circling round and round this way and that and back—among the purple blooms. Bottoms up!

I thought as I watched the gyrations of Squirrelster’s puffy tail of the wrist motion a thurifer makes as she censes altar, ambo, people, and sacrament, creating a haze of incense, scents of a woman. (I mean why not put perfume around to advertise our glory and God’s?)

The incense rises to the Creator, a great thanksgiving for being alive, a eucharistic offering.

The squirrel's sleight of tail might have been ecstasy of the kind that ascetics and mystics describe from time to time when they encounter the Holy and dervish about.

Squirrelster buried in the flowers was being seduced by the full fragrance of Divinity. Until Sister Mary Gabriel opened the window and gently whispered shoosh, and shoo. Squirrelster beat it fast all the way up the tree.

The dining group was entertained—everyone watching and laughing and if it weren’t retreat silence I’d have applauded. Squirrels are nature’s clowns, or one of nature’s clown groups.

But Squirrelster wasn’t done yet. Drunk with Spirit, his second act began in full view of his appreciative audience. Another more elaborate dance, a full body shimmy while perched on hind legs atop a shaky branch. His tail whirled and twirled, censing the air with his joy. All this while simultaneously bouncing his booty about like a belly dancer, or shall we say strutting his stuff.

Shaken out and loosened up he then scooted to a higher branch. He mounted the thin branch, curled his body around it horizontally so his tail hung down and his front paws embraced the branch over which his belly hung. What a sight. He then began to wiggle back and forth and up and down. Now I don’t need to tell you what went through my imagination. But can a squirrel get it off on a tree branch? Or was this just practice for when a delectable admirer might arrive and be willing?

Some rituals are universal. And they are all liturgies, works of praise for a Creator who didn’t miss a trick to provide Creation with all pleasure, all delight, all laughter, and all ecstasy.

And all to the glory of Creation itself. Simply so.