"What do you do?" asked a new friend. "I'm sorry I haven't asked you before. I know you've just written a book but...do you do something else?"
I stopped, both because of the question, which I get asked far less often in Canada than in the United States, and because, suddenly, I really wasn't sure what to answer. I suppose I could have answered, "I blog!" but that would have been both true, and kind of facetious. So I told her I had always been a graphic designer, and now I was writing more, and that I was really not too sure what I would be doing five years from now. Which is also the truth.
This young woman is a very good painter, and yesterday we visited her studio, a light-filled space in a large converted warehouse on the edge of the Lachine Canal. We looked at her paintings, about to be sent to a gallery in another city, and drank coffee, and talked. The afternoon light drifted into the room, white and dreamy over the large table with its brushes and glass palette and jars of linseed oil, and gradually pooled into shadows behind the canvases leaning against the walls to become near-darkness by the door. We sat on wicker chairs and the piano bench and a quilt-draped old armchair, while the painter's calm greyhound languished on a round dog-bed, lifting a blond-lashed eyelid now and then to make sure all the humans hadn't forgotten her. In the group were two musicians, two photographers, a writer (me) and the painter: all serious about our work, all relatively new friends; readers, Anglicans, people deeply concerned about the world, but happy to share a few hours talking about art, and being together in a setting that felt - as the creation and contemplation of art sometimes does - outside of time.
This morning at the cathedral, the men's choir surprised us with a 10th century Plainsong mass, the cantor stating the themes and the men's voices rising and falling in near-perfect unison. I closed my eyes and thought of the columned crypts in the oldest cathedrals I've visited in Europe; thought of Merton struggling irritatedly with the singing in his monastery choir, and smiled; opened my eyes to see the light refracting through the colored glass above the altar, marvelling at color itself.
I went up to the altar for communion, and in front of me was a young man with Down's syndrome; he's the son of a regular parishioner and is a lovely boy who often serves as an acolyte, doing a good and conscientious job. He knelt down at the rail, on my right, and held out his hands toward the priest who was coming along with the communion wafers.
She said the familiar words, addressing him by name: "M., the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you," before pressing the wafer into his outstretched hands.
He took the wafer, looked up at her smiling face, grinned back and said, in a firm, loud, happy voice, "Thanks!"