The introspective humdrum life of an eccentric hexagenarian.

Visit my other blogs: "Elderberry Bike Rides of Delaware
," organized bicycle rides for families, senior citizens, and anyone interested in getting back into biking; and "Cloister Voices," the collected thoughts of modern and ancient hermits, eccentrics, solitaires, wanderers, mystics, and others who inhabit the monastery within.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Saints, Sinners, Mystics, and Madmen

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I pass by this statue of St. Francis several times a week and although his demeanor appears to be one of intense hell and brimstone madness, if you study his life, it was always from positive energy of being a fool for God, a lover of nature, and the epitome of a friend.

Voltaire claimed he was a savage madman who ran naked, spoke to animals, gave religious instruction to a wolf and built himself a wife out of snow. I'm drawn to saints, sinners, mystics, and madmen. They are the spice of life. And they seem to be drawn to me.

One arrived at the lab holding a paper bag like a baby and claimed it was evidence of a homicide in progress and could I analyze the evidence. I peered inside the bag to see a very large zucchini.

"They tried to poison me, but I was too smart for them. Brought it here for you to analyze."

We were drawing quite a crowd in the reception room of the morgue so I guided my almost homicide victim to a quiet place in our library. A long sad story of a long sad life unfolded and in the end, it was no longer a near homicide victim who left still holding a poisoned zucchini like a baby but someone who had been heard. Perhaps not always believed, but heard.

I explained that we really couldn't analyze victimless crimes perpetrated by alleged homicidal vegetables without the proper chain of custody and a police report; but she might consider planting the zucchini and seeing what sprouted both in her garden and in her life.

I never heard what happened to the woman but she left with a smile on her face. And a plan.

Who can be sure who is a saint, a mystic, or a madman? I never know, so I generally treat them all the same and in return, I'm treated the same way.

On my way out of the lab, the Director, (one of my favorite saints, sinners, mystics, and madmen) stopped me to tell me of a phone call he had just received. Someone had called him to ask how low your blood sugar had to go before you went blind, or died, or both. He hedged the question and turned it back on the caller in true Socratic style.

It seems this person had felt near death with a blood sugar measuring 30 and had gone to Mass, taken the Host upon her tongue without swallowing it and walked home and checked their blood sugar again, but this time it was 90 and she felt much better. "Was I healed?"

The Director has a razor wit and a sense of humor as dry as the Sahara, and claimed he offered a few great one-liners about this miracle elevating Padre Pio over the hump to sainthood; but in the way he told me the story, what came across more clearly was how touched he was by the poignancy of this person seeking validation of being alive from another human being, and wanting desperately to feel even more alive.

I do not know who are saints, or sinners, or mystics, or madmen, but it's impossible not to love them all.

Shades of Christmas Past (from February 2007)

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The weather finally broke enough to be able to walk during my lunch hour around the Polish and Hispanic neighborhood that surround the Medical Examiner's office where I work. Both neighborhoods are mildly depressed and passed by; but certain sections of streets still speak of first generation immigrants who worked in the tanning factories and proudly sent their children to school in plaid uniforms to nuns who would iron out the accents from their speech.

I've noticed many Christmas decoration still up this year as if people aren't ready to let go of the magic of Christmas and trade it for the reality of slushy February; but this window has had the same decorations in it for the 22 years I've worked in this area. The same kitchy Santa praying before the same manager. The same family trapped in the purity of black and white, still with flushed cheeks from sledding down the slope to the Christiana River, the same dog still barking at their heels.

Many of these row houses were built with simultaneous living and business in mind. Living rooms of homes doubled as storefronts for sub shops, baked goods sales, seamstress alterations. The window of this row house has never changed for as long as I can remember. I've never seen anyone come or go or sit on the stoop or sweep the steps. Yet Santa keeps his vigil all these years for children long grown and I'm certain that a mother is still bent over a crystal rosary for their safety as they travel light years away from the fires of home.

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Historic Delaware
In these historic places,
there are spirits everywhere--
those we discover
looking back at us
through a window
and those we bring with us.
It's our choice
whether that will be
a haunting
or a blessing.

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