#NewThisDay Writing From My Photo Stream
Out the door before breakfast into the warm sunshine, onto the beach. I head north. It’s quiet, except for a few shell collectors and the rock of the surf and the seabirds calling. The water is cold, but I know I will dip later on, and I do, later, sitting with my husband, when we get too hot and submerge in the 63 degree Gulf to cool off. I have brought my book of short stories, “Walk the Blue Fields.” I am re-reading the title story, the one about the priest who goes to the wedding of a woman he had an affair with and broke off with when he decided he couldn’t leave the priesthood and she is marrying another man. After the wedding he walks the fields and goes to see a Chinaman he has heard about from someone at the wedding who is a healer. And the Chinaman has him lay down on a mattress and does some intense body work on him until he finally releases by shouting the name of the woman out loud. And this is a passage introducing the body work:
The Chinaman stares at him. His eyes are wide open, focused. He folds his sleeves up neatly to the elbow and reaches out to touch the priest. It is three years since anyone touched him and the tenderness in the stranger’s hands alarms him. Why is tenderness so much more disabling than injury? The hands are dry and warm. When they reach down from his jaw and encircle his throat, the priest swallows hard and stares at a print on the wall. The print depicts a plain, alabaster bowl and its shadow.
And as the Chinaman works on him, he is remembering the woman:
Fragments of his time with Lawlor’s daughter cross his mind. How lovely it was to know her intimately. She said self-knowledge lay at the far side of speech. The purpose of conversation was to find out what, to some extent, you already knew. She believed that in every conversation, an invisible bowl existed. Talk was the art of placing decent words into the bowl and taking others out. In a loving conversation, you discovered yourself in the kindest possible way, and at the end the bowl was, once again, empty.
~ Claire Keegan