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An agnostic spiritual experience by Sarasota Bay finally inspires this week’s  entry.   By Hannah Wallace   This is my fourth attempt at writing this week’s blog. I’d give you a rundown of the other versions, but that was actually the topic of version No. 3: a rambling account of my futile attempts. Writing about […]

February 22, 2007


An agnostic spiritual experience by Sarasota Bay finally inspires this week’s  entry.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
This is my fourth attempt at writing this week’s blog. I’d give you a rundown of the other versions, but that was actually the topic of version No. 3: a rambling account of my futile attempts. Writing about writing, the last resort of the desperately blocked writer. Three and a half months into blogging and already it’s come to this. What a shallow well am I.
 
So my jaw got progressively more clenched as Wednesday afternoon wore on. This week has been both too long (as most weeks are) and too short, for all the things I need to accomplish and haven’t yet (like, say, writing my blog). I stomped out of the building Wednesday at 5:30 and was, at least, greeted by bright blue sky and a soothing cool breeze.


Cap: ME AND MR. BEAM: I look peaceful and inspired, don’t I?
 
“Aight,” I said to Megan the copy editor. “The day sucked but the weather rocks; there’s a book in my car and bourbon by the bayfront: I’m going to O’Leary’s.”
 
Temps have warmed just enough that early evening O’Leary’s right now is absolutely ideal. I sat at a waterside picnic table with a Beam and soda and my book, as peaceful things converged: the sunlight on the water and the view of the boats in the harbor; the pine smell of the table, which always reminds me of a summer teaching gig in Boone, N.C.—mountain air and a picnic table, beer and conversation with super-smart 20-somethings; and the breeze off the water, which, I thought, was much too subtle to be classified as a breeze—I wanted to call it “a breath,” but that sounded too warm. (And as the bourbon began to kick in, I was content not to ponder any other words for it.)
 
And my book: Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, academically analyzing the origins of the world’s most prominent monotheistic religions—a delightfully intellectual diversion.
 
And those things together were enough, really, to right the day.
 
But eventually, over the din of steel drums and O’Leary’s regulars, came the sound of bells ringing at the Church of the Redeemer. Of course: Ash Wednesday. A lapsed Episcopalian, I’d totally forgotten. But after my years and years of childhood Sundays at the Redeemer, those bells, like the smell of the table, hit my brain in that pleasant, more-than-a-memory sense, even more like being submerged in the scene.
 
I’m no longer a churchgoer, nor even particularly religious, and in fact, in true Episcopal fashion, I’m not really comfortable openly discussing something as personal as religion. But as I read Armstrong describing the Old Testament’s various portrayals of God (or its various Gods), even the book conspired to elevate the evening to something a little more than secular.
 
Recounting a biblical story in which God was “not in the earthquake” and “not in the fire,” Armstrong wrote that in this case, “[God] is experienced in the scarcely perceptible timbre of a tiny breeze.”
 
Given the Sarasota bayfront on a February evening, I’d like to believe that’s a good way to think of Him.