Errata Literary Magazine
Bucks County Writers Workshop
Cathedral by Kurt Krumpholz
Some mornings this house is like a cathedral, so still and quiet as I perform my morning rituals. I wake up and the sky is gray. Rain pelts the glass in the skylight. I shower in a half sleep and drab gloom. And then, through the fog and the mist, a thought surfaces; a notion that tickles my soul and pumps the blood through my veins. I have this day. I am here. I am alone. I am free. There is no meeting to run to. There is no traffic to fight through. There is just me and this day. This moment, so hushed and tranquil, so charged with the sacred.
I stand in the shower and let the water wash over me, sluice off my nose, caress my back. I look out the window through the rain-streaked glass at the overcast, leaden sky. I think about building a fire later in the morning, about what to do with the kids after breakfast. But then my thoughts return again to this. This moment, right now. For now there is silence. Water running in the downspouts. The floorboards creaking under foot.
I dress and walk through my morning chores with an almost solemn sense of ritual, like a priest preparing the sacraments. I feed the dog his biscuits. I pour yesterday's coffee grounds down the sink and put a fresh pot on. I collect the paper from the front door stoop and extinguish the porch light that stands sentry for us all night long. I spread the paper out on the pine plank kitchen table and page through it as I eat a bowl of cereal. I pour a cup of coffee and empty the rest of the pot into an insulated carafe that will keep it warm until I finish my last cup shortly after lunch. I pull on my duck boots and slide into my old green and yellow satin rugby jacket and take the dog out back for his morning constitutionals. I come back into the warmth of the house and turn on the reading lamp next to the couch in the family room. I sit down and open my mindfulness book and read.
The dog lies at my feet and licks the dirt and water off his paws. The cat sits next to me on the armrest, nudging my elbow with his head and purring loudly. The clock ticks and then strikes the half hour. The furnace in the basement clicks on and then roars like a freight train approaching on a track. The tin heating ducts in the wall creak and pop as they expand and then contract after the hot air that heats the house is pumped through them. I read a chapter in my book on the couch in the stillness of the hour before the house really comes alive. Before the day ignites itself and catches fire. Before I am lost to the turmoil and commotion of the day's unfolding.
After fifteen or twenty minutes, I close the book and put it on the coffee table. I click off the reading lamp. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I exhale; long and slow and deep. I take another deep breath. I feel air fill my lungs. I hold it for a second and then I exhale. I feel the air rush from my nostrils. I sit and feel each breath fill me and leave me with a rhythm like little waves lapping at the rocky shore of a lake.
I let my mind run blank. I think about water and the surface of a lake rippled by the wind. I think about the wind dying down and the water laying flat again; a smooth layer of translucent glass. I see thoughts rise up before my mindís eye. I watch them fly up and away like brightly colored party balloons snatched up by the wind. They rise up and sail away, one by one. And I sit. For this moment, content to be just this. Nothing. Everything. Quiet. Still.
I no longer have problems or obligations. There are no pressing or lingering concerns. There is just this. This breathing. Here. In this stillness. In this sanctuary. In this moment of tranquility. Where no one can reach me. Where I am everything and nothing. Where I don't have to think or do. I can just be. In the nothingness before everything else begins.
Before I open my eyes again. Before I pour myself another cup of coffee. Before I head upstairs to my study and pull open the blinds and click the lights on. Before I switch on the computer and it whirs and hums and then springs to life. Before I try to shape the secret language of the heart into common words that I can then share with others.
Before Alex wakes up and comes stumbling into my study dragging her blanket behind her, as I sit before the computer writing. Before she mumbles, "Good morning, Daddy," with her thumb in her mouth and her head still groggy with sleep. Before I stop my typing and swivel in the chair to greet her. Before I stretch out my arms and she runs to me. Before I wrap her in a hug and then kiss the top of her head, burying my nose in the fragrance of apricots and honey from the shampoo of last night's shower. Before I say, "Good morning, honey, did you sleep well?" Before she whispers, "Uh-huh," into my shirt, and then, "Can I watch a little TV?"
Before I say, "Sure," and walk her down the hall to the big bed and click on the PBS channel and she hops up onto the bed, props herself up on the pillows, and wraps her threadbare green "boo-jah" around her. Before she pops her thumb back in her mouth and I give her a kiss on the cheek and say, "I'll be in my study finishing up my work. If you need me, just call." Before she nods her head with her eyes riveted to the TV screen and Barney or the Magic School Bus or Arthur or whoever is on.
Before Max starts stirring in his crib and it's my signal to stop working for the morning. Before I go down to the kitchen, pull the bottle liners out of the drawer, fix up two bottles, one for breakfast one for lunch, and fill them with milk. Before I turn on the tap and let the water run hot, fill a plastic container full of hot water and put one of the milk bottles in it to warm. Before I stash the other one in the refrigerator to keep cool until lunch.
Before I rip open a packet of instant apple-and-spice-flavored oatmeal and pour it into a bowl for Alex. Before I heat a small glass of milk in the microwave and pour it over the dry oatmeal flakes, then spoon in a little dollop of maple syrup and stir until the oatmeal is thick and creamy. Before I head upstairs to lay out Alex's clothes for the day, get Max up and change his diaper, and then wrestle him into his fresh clothes for the morning.
Before I fall into the flow of the day's tasks. Before I get swept away by a stream of events that will carry me through the rest of the next twelve or thirteen hours -- eventually to be deposited exhausted, often confused and bewildered, on the rocky embankment at the end of another day.
Then to stop suddenly and come to rest. To try to find myself again by sorting through all the detritus still left clinging to me, dust myself off, search for some sense of equilibrium again and then try to relax. Try to take some solace in having successfully navigated through one more leg of this strange and restless journey. Search for a book or a bottle or something to grab hold of for a few minutes, an hour, before sleep washes me again into its dark and arcane waters.