daily preciousness

Friday, June 29, 2001

irish imagination

The Irish Imagination.

I clear immigration and my mind wanders. I look up. The filtered sunlight from the airport ceiling windows is blazingly bright, but the building is icy cool. I loosen my grip on my carry-on bag.

There's an announcement on the public address system. I don't listen to the words, but I can make out something I've not noticed before. The sinuous, winding path of the syllables reminds me of something. The natural, unaffected melody of voice reveals itself to me … the Irish of the imagination.

In my mind's eye, I plot the sound of the words on a mental graph. They form lines, shapes familiar to me. In the sudden flash of vision, I can see a scribe in a monastery 1500 years ago, copying a manuscript -- something by Plato. In the margin, he scribbles a joke at the philosopher's expense. A poem about the folly of Atlantis. He scratches his partly-shaved head and rubs his tired eyes. It's almost time for vespers. His little desk is in the corner window of the Scriptorium.

His mind wanders…. Patricious looks up. The sunlight from the scriptorium window is blazingly bright but the stone building is icy cool. He loosens his grip on his quill. He hears a cheerful sparrow.

He doesn't consciously listen to the song, but it stirs a memory within him. The tune reminds him of a passage from St. Brandon's travels. What was it? Something about a faraway land, populated by men who could take flight, like the birds of the skies? Yes, that was it.

In his mind's eye, he imagines the men of the story traveling great distances in a single day, passing over great divides of water and land, as routinely as he might trod down the path from abbey to town.

Odder still, the sparrows song penetrates his reverie at a deeper level. He realizes that this is not merely an idle daydream. St. Brandon was right. With a conviction that he can't quite understand, the young monk puts down his quill and wipes his ink-stained hands. He runs his fingers from his brow to his shorn head to his thick black locks, thinking to himself, "Brandon's travels, as fantastic as they seem are true – I am certain of it." And with that resolve, he also knows that he can complete his studies, despite his clumsy Latin. Like Brandon, like the flying men of the stories, he envisions himself traveling great distances. "And the journey begins," he whispers to himself as he leaves the scriptorium.

I am staring up at the skylight windows of the airport and don't notice the blue-eyed man in the collar until I slam into him. His bags go flying and so do mine. His little frame tumbles down. I stand above him, mortified, spitting out apologies and offering a hand to lift him up. His bags have burst open and a half dozen books have fallen out, as have mine. Gathering up his books, I am putting them back into his bag when I notice the front of one is marked "Geoffrey Brady."

"Mr. Brady? Are you okay? I am so sorry – I wasn't paying attention to where I was going," I offer.

He's fine. Thank God. If I'd injured a priest, I know that there's got to be a special place in hell for people like me that carelessly run into a man of the church and then pilfer a book from him.

Yeah, I'm not proud of it. It was an underhanded thing to do, to put one of his books in my bag. My curiosity got the better of me…. It was a heavy, leather-bound book, almost as big as my carry-on, half wrapped plain white paper. The label "For Geoffrey Brady" intrigued me so much that I had to see what it was. So I took it.

* * *

Should I continue this? Tell me.

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