The Blue Heron dress rehearsal happened without much incident, at least that I was aware of. I brought Chance or Purpose along to read, but barely finished the first chapter because the music kept pulling my attention away.
I sat in the balcony once more, and when Joel and his girlfriend arrived I brought them up, explaining that the sound was best from up here. Olivia waved to us from where she peeked out of the side room the singers were waiting in.
At three o’clock they entered by the two side doors, each with a bell, and processed in two separate columns down opposite aisles, ringing their bells randomly — which could have sounded terrible, for some technical reason that went over my head, but didn’t — and meeting by the doors, continuing down the centre aisle, still ringing. The audience, in the celebrated style of audiences everywhere, didn’t realize until some way into this that the concert was starting, and you can hear them carrying on talk and laughter well into the parade of bells like they’re in a coffeeshop or something, but should you be interested in listening to the concert, it is available in its entirety here.
After the last of the set of three carols, the choir filed out, as if it were the end, and when people had finished clapping they came back and sang Ding Dong Merrily On High. Then it was really over, and the trio gathered and talked, and Joel took pictures of everyone and anyone, and finally we were on the edge of getting locked out again.
The members of the Blue Heron Consort went to the Blue Heron Coffeeshop for some well-earned pizza afterwards (“I can eat dairy now!” Olivia exulted, shortly before she ate all the cheese.) Unsurprisingly, by now, I tagged along.
I had to be introduced to people and asked whether I sang, and it got noisy and the pizza was not yet forthcoming. Someone had recorded the concert and now started playing it over the shop’s speakers, so some people started to sing along.
We found ourselves a table in the quietest corner. The walls there had paintings of various qualities hung on them (one reminded me of SMSU), and the one by our table had a painting of an orchid or some such flower just past its prime. Ours was a table for two, but we dragged a chair over for John Paul, who thus sat facing it. During a lull in discussion (probably we had just finished singing along to something), he pointed at it and said simply, “Decay.”
“Yes,” we said.
“Would you say no good picture should have decay in it?” he asked.
“Sometimes a light shines brighter in the dark,” I said. This seemed to make sense to him.
We talked about books, and which book we’d recommend to everyone, and he went up in my estimation when he named The Lord of the Rings in that category. He and I talked about how good it is and how not an allegory, while Olivia glared at me from across the table because here’s yet another voice backing up my insistence that she read it. (While in line for pizza, John Paul asked me whether I preferred the Iliad or the Odyssey, resulting in him getting a lecture about the two heroes’ respective priorities, and me forgetting to grab napkins.)
As we were leaving, we noticed a poster on the wall advertising a performance of the Messiah the next night in LaCrosse. Students were only five dollars admission. Olivia and John Paul wanted to make a trio trip of it.
“I’ll come along,” I said. “I think I’ve got Tuesday off too, at least that sounds right. I do want to see the Messiah.” Olivia tried to convince me that this was a bad idea and I didn’t have Tuesday off.
We got our coats on and went out the front door, still talking about something or other, and trying to stave off the inevitable farewell. At this point we still thought I was leaving the next morning.
We were halfway across an empty parking lot when I realized my feet were colder than I remembered them being when we walked this way coming in, and that for a little while now someone inside my head had been trying to draw my attention to the significance of this fact, which I understood only belatedly.
“Hang on, guys,” I said, laughing, “I forgot my boots inside. I’ll. . . go and get them.” I left them talking animatedly and retrieved my boots.
The thing is, because my “good” shoes are not much protection against anything that can come up over the sides, like snowbanks (Olivia does like to park me right next to them), and they aren’t big enough to fit when I’ve got fuzzy socks on, which were all I had with me because none of my others were clean, I’d been wearing my rubber boots (with socks) around to places, carrying my shoes until we were somewhere my clomping around wouldn’t be appreciated. Like in St Mary of the Angels where you can hear at the other end of the church if someone turns a page. So I had two pairs of footwear to keep track of at any given time when we were in public, and the one which wasn’t currently on my feet stood a good chance of getting left behind. But I’d been doing so well up to that point.
Still, what would have happened if I’d gotten home and my rubbers were conspicuous by their absence, and some employee discovered them (and my fuzzy socks) after closing and had to confront the mystery, I shuddered to think.
Finally we made it to the side street where we’d parked our cars. You’d think this is where we said goodbye and drove off, like responsible adults — after all, Olivia still had to study for her eight a. m. Thinking Theologically exam, and it was past six. But no. For at least another quarter of an hour we stood on a sidewalk and froze, our conversation going like this:
Someone: “Do you know this one?” (Sings the first verse of On Christmas Night All Christians Sing)
Someone else: “Of course! Do you know this one?” (Sings first verse of some other slightly obscure carol)
Someone: “Yes! Do you know this one?”. . .
Finally there was no help for it. John Paul was especially exhausted, but we were all coming off a church-and-concert day. We did the “If I don’t see you again before I leave” thing, and I asked John Paul if, with a couple of days of knowing me after our first proper introduction, he had found me too intimidating.
He said not, that in fact the “thorough and gentle” way I laid my arguments out was refreshing. Hearing that was a novelty.
And then we got in our car and Olivia turned it on and gasped at the clock. We were late again.
So we raced back to St Mary’s and Olivia gathered up her stuff and we ran down the hall, only to find out we were leaving a trail of rainbow-coloured highlighters, and then we gathered them up and ran on, only to lose some more. And when we got to the place appointed, Gabe wasn’t there, but he’d e-mailed Olivia to say he was in the library. So we prepared to gather our bags and baggage once more and trudge over there. And then Gabe was coming up the stairs just as we started down, his arms likewise full of miscellaneous things including highlighters.
They settled down to do Theology review, and I read Olivia’s text over her shoulder and made sarcastic comments about the professor’s dating system, and took breaks from my knitting to write Chesterton quotes in chalk on the boards. Somewhere past ten o’clock they both decided they weren’t getting any more out of the reading, and we went to bed, though not without an extended conversation in the hallway where our paths diverged.
(To be continued.)