Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unshakable Faith

Scepticism is the beginning of Faith. Oscar Wilde

It rained last night. A tropical downpour that pounded the metal roof, soaking the vegetation and the swimsuit and towel I forgot to take down from the drying rack.

This morning, the grass is steeped in moisture, raindrops drip from fern fronds bent over towards the ground. The sun glistens on the water and above my head a fan softly stirs the air. All is well with my world.

We went grocery shopping yesterday. Tammy, her mother Lia, and myself. (I am not using the real names of my friends.)

We walked into town, had lunch at a bar on the beach. Chatted with the vendors and a man from Michigan. He approached our table, sat down on a small retaining wall beside it and said, "Hi. You all enjoying yourselves?"

"How could we not be?" one of us replied. "We're in paradise."

The man smiled and laughed. He reminded me of Van Gogh's self portrait. Hair rimming the edges of his head, the top shiny and tanned. Tall. Skinny. Gaunt. His skin a deep mahogany colour. He's here house-sitting for six weeks. "Actually," he laughs. "I'm cat-sitting. Pretty easy job. I get a place to live for free."

Mostly he's house sat for people and their pets in Michigan. "I've taken care of dogs, cats, pigs, horses, trees gardens, houseplants. You name it, I've pretty well sat for it."

This is the first time he's tried some place exotic. "This one wasn't even supposed to be me," he says. "When I contacted the owner she said she already had a couple scheduled to come in for the full time she's away. But then, after three weeks, they simply packed up and left so she called me and here I am."

"Where you all from?" he asked in his flat middle plains accent.

"I almost flew through Toronto to get here," he said when he found out our nationality. "I was bringing all my scuba gear and there were a lot of places I didn't want to go through to get here." He laughs again. His broad comfortable laugh. "Air tanks have an uncanny way of disappearing in certain airports. Miami being the capital of misplaced scuba gear gone missing."

We chatted some more and the three of us bid our farewells. We had shopping to do. Groceries to buy. Things to see.

We're on the west coast of the Island at the edge of the gentle Caribbean sea, on the outskirts of the first settlement by whites in 1627. Holetown. A name that has survived the centuries when slaving ships would dock and disgorge their human cargo, much of it sick and weakened, dead and smelling. It wasn't a pretty sight and definitely not a pretty smell. And so, locals would say, "I'm going to the Hole" and the name stuck.

In Holetown you can buy pretty well anything. A song of childhood flits through my mind, "Acri, rice, salt fish, are nice and the rum is fine any time of the day."

This is a storied place. Beside us, the oldest church on the island stands in stately grace, her white walls pocked with age. The headstones in her cemetery covered in moss. She has stood in that place since 1629. Unusual for the island, she was never consumed by fire though she was rebuilt in 1788 after being destroyed by a hurricane. Stately and white, she presides over a large grassy area, her grace evident in the sweeping curve of her walls and the stunning glass window at the far end of the sacristry.

In the evenings, we can hear the organ playing, its deep sonorous notes filling the air with heavenly-inspired splendour.

On Sunday, the bells rang and Lia and I heeded their call. We sat amidst a predominately black congregation and soaked up the essence of the Island. Faith is deep here. Christianity deeply embedded into every aspect of Island culture.

The foreign settlers brought it. Anglican. Baptist. Methodist. Quaker. Roman Catholic.

With their God, they also brought the need to worship. And so, before anything else was built, a church was erected in each new settlement, calling the settlers' spirits home to the familiar in a world of change.

I wonder about that place where faith is never questioned, never doubted. I wonder about what it would be like to know, without a doubt that God is the Father and we are His children, our duty to obey, our life His to direct.

I don't have that unquestioning faith, that unshakable belief in God's Divine presence directing my life. Raised Roman Catholic I wander through religions, visiting churches and synagogues, mosques and temples, like a tourist at a buffet, sampling exotic fare with the unshakable belief that trying new and foreign foods is part of the journey. And when I get home, comfort foods of my culture will once again form the unshakable foundation of my diet each bite yearning for the exotic spices of my travels.

I don't practice any one religion these days and yet, sitting in that church on Sunday, the sultry heat hot against my skin, a soft breeze stirred by the swirling fans above and the open doorways on three sides of the chapel whispering against my skin, light filtering in through the wooden slatted windows opened wide, the air filled with the soft sweet cadence of Island voices singing in harmony, the glow of candles and the comfort of rituals steeped in tradition, I felt the presence of the One, the being who would be, if I believed without question in the "Holy Catholic and apostolic church", my Creator.

Sitting on that hard wooden pew, my linen dress sticking to my skin, my body sluggish in the sultry heat, memory stirred and prayers long forgotten from childhood surfaced. Sitting amidst the congregation I celebrated that which connected us all -- a faith that despite hardship and hurricanes, fire and death -- carried on through the ages. A rock of ages sustaining those who were lost, gone, far from home or simply seeking a place to come home to.

While I may not share their same deep unshakable belief in God, the Father, or follow their particular religion, I share an unshakable belief in our Divine creation. We are Divine expressions of amazing grace, human beings of magnificent wonder on the journey of our lifetime.

May we all journey in peace and love and harmony.



Maureen said...

Lovely post, Louise. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

what a postcard!

S. Etole said...

Your words need no camera to be vividly seen ...