we took to the woods

Today we went out of town to the little brick church where the singing is the best, and on windy Sundays like this one, pine branches tickle the bubbled, uneven glass in the windows. The floorboards make this beautiful sound as the pianist works the keys. As communion was passed the pastor said, “This bread is gluten free.” Though the sky was blue and the hills outside shining brilliant red, the guest preacher spoke about apocalypse and the urgency of Christian duty, and it occurred to me that Americans, inundated with stories of heroism, might like to be asked to save the world from time to time. I think the smattering of Europeans who still attend church would feel alarmed  or manipulated rather than reassured given a mission like that. The service closed with “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.” Wow. I wish I could link to that somehow, share it with you.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am laughing at people from around here, people who’ve had the good sense to stay in one (gorgeous) place and invest in relationships and pleasures and improvements that are cumulative. I enjoy their way of talking so much. A Mormon mother of nine stopped by to give me an upholstery quote, and after she took in the mountains of boxes around the living room and asked, “Where’d y’all move from?” and I told her, she exclaimed, “Yeah, I can smell the spices!” (There is a thin-pressed mouth that country housewives do after saying something tongue-in-cheek that I love.)

Meanwhile the men seem simultaneously super-capable and awkward and so kind. For a year I’ve been looking at black-shrouded, stiletto-wearing Gulf ladies as they float from their chauffeured cars into the malls and back again, and thinking, well, one upside to that difficult dress code may be that this is a culture that protects and honors its women. But that happens here too. When the handyman finishes hanging shelves, he pulls out a leaf blower from his trunk and uncovers our lawn for free. I ask the gas station cashier whether it’s normal for diesel to foam up a lot, and the camouflage guys hanging around the coffee machine call me Ma’am, offer loads of advice and tell me to have a blessed day.