Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Grace notes

From the mid to late nineteen nineties, I lived in Athens, Georgia while I worked on my doctorate at UGA. Two or three times a year I would drive from Georgia to Texas to see family. One night, just three hours into that drive, my eyes and my ears caught separate but perfectly matched beauty, and I've never forgotten it. I had "Rhapsody in Blue," the 1959 Leonard Bernstein recording, playing on the tape deck, and it had just reached this part when I looked up at the sky.

There was a solid ceiling of altostratus clouds, and several of the downtown Atlanta skyscrapers poked up into it. They were lit in different colors, and the colored light spread out into pools at the point of contact with the clouds. It was unbelievably beautiful. And it fit perfectly with the music. The color in the sky and the sweep of the music seemed as complementary, as compatible, as a key in its keyhole. 

And more than anything, I think I was struck by disbelief that they could be as completely unrelated as my reason told me they had to be. The clouds were a natural phenomenon. The music had been recorded forty years before, and composed another thirty before that. The buildings had been built and the lighting installed for purposes that had nothing to do with the nighttime viewing of highway drivers. None of the three could have been coordinated that perfectly by any human plan.

This morning, I had another one of those.

I was out for a run, listening to a very obscure piece of music that was just getting to the good part, and just as it began, just as I started to relax into it, I smelled honeysuckle. At that precise moment, I reached a honeysuckle patch that an apartment complex had grown on their outer fence, and it smelled wonderful. What's more, the length of the patch and the speed I was running worked together to make the scent last exactly as long as the good part of the music.

I don't believe in "proof" that God exists. Just in the last day or so I've gotten interested in the idea that demands for proof claims in any relationship are fundamentally misguided and destructive. But I do occasionally see moments that seem to reveal character, that seem to show kindness, delight in indulging a loved one. As proof, they're pitiful. As moments in a relationship, they're perfect.

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