This was an exercise that I followed when I became very bored waiting for sessions of the retreat to end. The object was to write about a holiday without cliches. I fudged a bit by taking some common ones and giving them horrid and sacrilegious little twists.
Julian. Easter 2006. Easter dawned as cold as the tomb on Holy Saturday. The warm light of the sun shrouded itself in clouds. I walked across the flowerless green lawn, unwilling to participate in the worship circle of the Friends and uninvited to take part in the walk some adults took the children on. I sat in the A-Frame dining lodge, feeling isolated because my agnosticism kept me from talking about God and because their knowledge of my disease made me uncertain of their trust and their warmth.
Quakers, like many people of Faith, can be cold towards the walking dead, the cloud-minded and the obsessed. The worst among these leave you to cast out your demons in unsupported silence or treat you as less intelligent than you are. While this aches, I prefer it to the grandiose promises of exorcism that Pentecostals and other Dervish devouts offer. I used to suffer a lonesome three day interment when I came here, kvetching only to my wife. Now, when my attempts to educate others about mental illness penetrated like a worm into a drained, scalped, uncomprehending skulls, I ate or went on solitary walks through copper-branched manzanita stands made luminous by low morning light slanting beneath the dry-heaving storm.
I heard the wind blowing across my ears and felt it numb the one gnarled flap that still had sensation. The Quakers walked back and forth wearing their mountain jackets, unsure what this celebration should entail for a people who offered no sacrifices. In the morning, they pulled on their blue jeans and plaid shits, trimmed their beards if they were men, (but not their underarms or their legs if they were women) and stomped about in black-soled hiking boots all in defiance of revamped Passover traditions.
They couldn’t quite let go of God. Delusions of certainty that the sane could hold without fear of diagnosis hovered above them. I resented the dogma of the personified universe because in the name of declaring it good, it bestowed tender cruelties such as the insistance that God gave us no more hardship than we could bear. This led me to tear upon the air so that I could get at the Sadist and gouge out his gargantuan eyes. A more joyful God fluttered among the Friends, making them happy for the company. One woman declared her loneliness to me, living as she did in Julian where there was no Quaker meeting. I felt her sorrow because I, too, get lonely. Agnostics don’t gather and when they do, their ranks are infiltrated by vociferous, faith-hating atheists. So what I do on this and every Sunday is separate myself from the followers of the bell and the book either by sitting alone or remaining in bed. Roll the stone back over the entrance, hang strips of meat from the cross so that the birds may eat of them, fly off with them, and make dead cells Life via digestion. This is no holiday for my kind.
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Later that day I talked to a Jewish friend who wished me a Happy Easter. I told her that it was my anniversary. “OK,” she said. Jesus trumped my culmination of 18 years of joy.