Friday, October 24, 2008

"This life I lead, setting pictures straight, squaring rugs up with the room - it suggests an ultimate symmetry towards which I strive and strain. Yet I doubt that I am any nearer my goal...even granted that this untidy world is ready for any such orderliness."

E.B. White

The paintings on the walls of this café depress me; I’m not exactly sure why. They are ugly for sure – the figures are badly drawn and out of proportion; the colours are banal, like cheap hotels: washed out blues and greens, and that particular shade of mauve that is supposed to inspire a restful, open attitude, but in reality inspires only discontent. Apart from the paintings, the café is ideal: white painted brick, perfectly weathered, black trim, heating pipes exposed along the walls, wood floors, wood tables; it has atmosphere, if only the painting would disappear!
We leave this evening for New York City to visit our dear friend Bill, who is studying there, and who is happy to play tour-guide for the weekend. We’re leaving our apartment in a state of disorder, which weighs on my mind more than it really should. The kitchen is half painted, two walls completely done and two only just begun. The kitchen things are everywhere: in the pottery room, on the floor, on the washer. The dishes are washed and stacked to dry beside paint cans and old brushes, and the laundry is piled desperately high, as the washer is taken over by kitchen things. When it is done, the kitchen will be beautiful. We are painting over the blah, barely blue walls with two different greens – both so refreshingly earthy I want to eat them, and running horizontal between the two a clean white stripe. I was unconvinced by the white stripe when my husband first proposed it, but yesterday, when we peeled off the tape on the first wall and saw the first finished wall, I fell in love. The stripe is perfect: so white, so clean, and so joyful! The whole kitchen, when it is done, will be refreshing as a spring rain.

I have been thinking recently about how difficult it would be to live a fully Catholic life without a good community. We are particularly blessed here to be surrounded by young families, people we love for themselves, who are passionately Catholic. It would be so difficult if our friends did not share our faith, or if they shared only our faith and none of our other passions. Cafés often make me thank God for the blessing of our community. In the cafés of Portland, there is such a mix of people: business men in suits and ties, sipping coffee and talking salaries; the young Urban Liberal in his cords and careless, windblown hair; the vocal woman behind the counter, lecturing her customer on the absurdity of having six children, rights of homosexuals, and the plight of American Indians. I sometimes feel as though I’m traveling incognito – they assume I agree and I am silent; I long for the company of my potter-friend, my old roommate, or my husband, all of whom have the sort of aesthetic that belongs in little cafes and the passionate Catholicism that completes that aesthetic and takes it from empty and haunted to whole.

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