Under the Rainbow
It was Tuesday, and time to phone home as promised. Mom sounded strong and happy. We chatted and she said two more routine tests were needed before the scheduled surgery next week. Then Dad came on the phone. He was amazed Mom was having such a good day, and asked how things were going here. I told him we were indeed having great adventures, and… I could hardly wait to eat hamburger again. He relayed this to Mom, and I could hear them both laughing in the background. It was good to hear her laugh. Little did they know the reason of my red meat reversal, and probably better that way too! I said I would phone again on the weekend. Hanging up, I realized I forgot to mention we had a Molieben for Mom yesterday. Well, I would just have to tell them next time.
The rest of the week sped by with obediences, services and free time. The girls and I were stuck with the obedience of watering the cattle troughs, although the cattle weren’t usually there when we did it. We three loved our time together. It felt like we had always been friends forever, as we all had the similar hopes, dreams and spiritual difficulties.
One morning, it was hotter than usual. We donned our work boots and shuffled slowly over to the barn. Several steer were waiting expectantly at the trough. Leaning against the rough split rail fence, we filled the trough with hose water. I took great delight in spraying one of the bulls which stared balefully at me. “Take that!” I said, sticking my tongue out.
Marina grabbed the hose and sprayed all the cattle at the trough. They shuffled and mooed, bumping against each other, jostling the split rail fence.
“Don’t encourage them!” hissed Faith.
Marina laughed, and we joined in.
Suddenly, the sky grew very dark and a loud clap of thunder sounded directly overhead. Hail the size of ice cubes pelted down on us as we tore into the barn for shelter. It pounded deafeningly upon the barn’s metal roof. Faith shouted something I couldn’t hear. As we watched out the open barn door, a bedraggled rooster scooted inside looking for shelter. The little red comb on top of his head flapped back and forth ridiculously. A fork of lightening struck somewhere close by, and the rooster gave an undignified squawk and flew up to the rafters.
We huddled together and waited out the storm. The hail gave way to a torrential rain as we sat on dry straw watching the spectacle outside. When the thunder stopped, the rain became a light sprinkle. Faith and I flopped backwards onto the hay and listened to the dripping water from the barn roof plopping to the ground. The air was sweet and fresh.
“I miss my guitar,” sighed Marina. “I feel a song coming!”
“A stormy kind of song?” Faith asked
“No,” said Marina dreamily, “A gentle, rainy song…” And she hummed a few airy bars sounding exactly like rain in the wind. It was in a minor key and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Suddenly Faith sat up in alarm, tugging pieces of straw from her hair and scarf. “Yikes! I nearly forgot! I’m supposed to trim the house chapel’s lampada wicks before lunch. I hope I don’t spill any oil! Sister Juliana says we are given a penance if we do! The last time she spilled oil, she had to drop and do fifty prostrations! Man! Talk about Boot Camp!”
“You better go,” we agreed. “See you at lunch.”
Faith disappeared with a wave. Marina and I sat together in pleasant tranquility. We watched the disheveled rooster strut around the barn, bobbing his head, pecking the dirt and straw.
“You have a true gift,” I said to Marina. “I like your music.”
“Thanks,” she shrugged her shoulders.
“No, it’s good, really. Um, may I ask… why do you – did you have so many face piercings?”
Marina hesitated, and stood up brushing flecks of straw and debris off her skirt. “I joined a girl’s band last year as lead singer. I had auditioned with them before, but nobody took me seriously. So, I pierced my lip, chin and brow, and then re-auditioned. I even started smoking. Boom! Magic! I was in! I did the piercings myself, and my parents were furious.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t get an infection!” I exclaimed.
“Yes” agreed Marina sighing. “I already had this tiny nose ring, and they hated that, so you can only imagine how my folks reacted to the rest.”
“But you only have the nose ring left now. Where did the brow, lip and chin rings go? ”
Marina laughed. “I tossed them away with my empty pack of cigarettes! I need to heal… body and soul. If my so-called friends can’t take me as I am, well… they’re not really my friends at all.
“You’re so brave!” I shuddered, cringing with the thought of anything to do with needles. “Those piercings must have hurt.”
Marina’s chin jutted out stubbornly. “Not as much as not being accepted for who I am, and then trying to act like someone or something that I’m not! During a walk and talk, Abbess Everild said what we are, is God’s gift to us… but what we do with ourselves, is our gift to God.”
“Hmmm… I don’t mean to be nosey but…” I began cautiously.
“But you are,” Marina giggled.
“Why did you come to visit the convent? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
Marina thought for a moment. “It’s complicated. My family live about a half day’s drive from here, and we visited the convent regularly when I was younger. I remember when I was about eight or nine; I even thought I wanted to be a nun someday. That’s changed, obviously, and I’m going off to college in a couple of years. Anyway, my parents recently asked if I’d like to come here for a visit, and the thought of not having to be around them for awhile was a no brainer, so I said yes… PLEASE! Then, when I got here, I thought I had made the biggest mistake in coming. I hated it! I thought I would feel different, but I didn’t. I guess it was because I had brought myself along. Talk about baggage! But, after a few days here, some of those nice, old, feelings I use to have here, returned.”
Not knowing what to say to all this heavy duty, honest, stuff, I blurted out, “Ok. So, I’m starved. Let’s go help with lunch, PRG!”
“PRG?” asked Marina, with one eyebrow raised quizzically.
“You and me… Punk Rock Girl!”
We brushed off the stray bits of straw on our clothes and tore out the barn, slipping in the mud and laughing. Racing each other back to the convent, Marina pointed to the sky above.
Looking into the bright sunshine, a phrase from vespers came to mind, O Thou Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain…
And, a rainbow held out its shining hand over us.
© Barbara Bruce