A small box containing 1.5 cubic feet of space, filled with everything imaginable. Defined as a heavy duty box for such items as canisters, linens, and clothing, but really more suitable for personal items like tree cones, a rust colored bird candle holder, photographs of nephews, family, and old friends. There’s room for picture calendars of Mary, a crucifix, Howlin Wolf records, St. Jude candles, maps of Germany, and a postcard of autumn. There’s a corner section proudly reserved for poetry by William Stafford and the fictional book Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. In the opposite corner are small paintings and clippings from that semester when Art History 101 seemed to matter the most. But in the center, neatly framed, are a lifetime’s worth of memories.
A past and a future.
The “thin places”.
["It was not until I told my story to Mary that I understood that the hardest person in the world to forgive is yourself. And that the hardest person in the world to have faith in is also yourself. I am still trying to reconcile who I am now with who I was then. I know my former self is still there, waving to me through time just a like a phantom limb. I am still trying to figure out how I both am and am not the person I was then, the person I appear to be now, the person I think I am; how I both am and am not the person that I think I am; how I both am and am not the person I will eventually become. If who I am now is the ‘real’ me, then who was the person I used to be: an imposter, a fugitive in disguise, the out-of-focus shadow of my future self? If who I am now is the ‘real’ me, then who is the person I will be twenty or thirty years from now?
My own penchant for order and clarity does not happily or easily admit the contradictions and the opposites within me. I have problems with paradox. If I am this, then how can I be that? When I was younger, I thought I could be only one or the other. I did not understand how I could be both.
From a very early age, we are indoctrinated into seeing the world in pairs of opposites. Think of all those children’s books in which the world is so clearly and cleverly laid out in two by two: big and little, boy and girl, stop and go, up and down, happy and sad. Perhaps it is some unconscious atavistic longing for the simplicity of the old mechanistic universe (where there were no contradictions and all mysteries could be solved) that keeps clinging to these tidy constructs: yes and no, weak and strong, give and take, love and hate, heaven and earth. Perhaps it is some subliminal collective nostalgia for the good old days of Plato and Heraclitus (before Einstein and relativity, Heisenberg and uncertainty, quantum physics and chaos theory) that keeps us stuck in the resolute land of opposites: body and soul, lost and found, life and death, good and evil, truth and lies.
Fact and fiction.
Victim and villain.
Alpha and omega.
Beginning and ending.
Virgin and mother.
Human and divine.
It is time now to venture out of the comforting land of either/or opposites and travel into the uncertain territory of both/and. Time to realize that irony is not cynicism, paradox is not chaos, and prayer is not wishful thinking. Time to accept the possibility that these, irony, paradox, and prayer are still points, the thin places, the perfect quantum qualities. It is time now to admit that reality is not simple as we would like it to be and that, given half the chance, it will indeed expand to fill the space available."] pgs, 262-263.
Upon first reading, I struggled with the book Our Lady of the Lost and Found. What’s it really about? Fact versus fiction? An essay or stage play? A singular example of true friendship? Anything?
I put it back on the lower bookshelf rack last year mildly disappointed with what I interpreted to be a distinctive lack of flow between chapters. Resolved to the “fact” that the book was less story and more history. I let it bake in the oven so to speak - allowing significant time to process the “art of novel” approach. I did some research, read some reviews. Slowly, sloooowly began to understand context and juxtaposition - the relationship between history and fiction.
I revisited the book in May of this year. Mary’s month. This time around things clicked. By reading a chapter or two at a time, I ignored my perceived need for continuity simply absorbing the themes and the clever dialogue. All in all, a unique reading experience. Try it out, little by little. Anticipate the joy in your encounter with Mary. For lovers of lists and philosophical musings as well.