The following is an excerpt from April Vinding’s new spiritual memoir, Triptych, releasing this month.
Each morning Sister Anne stands with us in the common room and gives us scripture for the day. She wears simple wool skirts, flat brown sandals, and blouses with pockets. She speaks to us in English, reading from the gospels or of Jonah or Deborah with her head uncovered—speaking like these men and women were her family, saying ‘Jesus’ with her soft French accent (jsah-see
) easily, like he is among her friends. I picture over and over again the women at the tomb and keep thinking her name is Mary. She is so much like one, in wisdom and peace, who’s finished crying.
We don’t speak among ourselves except to translate. Esther takes in the English and in quiet intercessions speaks to one of the other women in Spanish. Esther reminds me of the other Mary, somehow both young and wise.
Sometimes Sister Anne reads the scripture in French as she knows it, letting each of us find our way to the text in our own language.
“Jean, chapitre vingt et un, verset vingt-cinq: Jésus a accompli encore bien d'autres choses. Si on voulait les raconter une à une, je pense que le monde entier ne suffirait pas pour contenir tous les livres qu'il faudrait écrire.”
Esther whispers, “Jesús hizo muchas otras cosas también. Si cada de una fueran escritas, me imagino que aún el mundo entero no tendría espacio para los libros que serían escritos.”
Later today I stood among tables of the pottery the brothers make to support their community. Each piece has a small stamp on the bottom, taizé, because none of them take personal credit for the work they do. I stood before the cash register with a wide-bowled oil lamp in my hands—its purchase both a recognition I would have to leave this place and a weak, material effort to carry away a piece of its flame. I was trying to buy a symbol.
As I waited, I thought of the scripture Sister Anne had given us: a library in heaven. I stood with the clay lamp in my hands, elbows akimbo, passport pouch across my shoulders, and a scene dropped into my head. A young man with dark skin and wavy hair stood in front of a shelf full of books. Young, the Son of God was sliding one book back onto the shelf, smiling—sliding back onto the shelf one of my books, smiling. I have books in God’s library
. I stood in line for the cash register, my arms full of clay, lashes laced in blinking tears.
________ We’re pleased to be giving away a copy of April Vinding’s spiritual memoir, Triptych, to one of our readers. Write a comment on our Facebook page post or below this post and we’ll pick a name and notify the winner on Monday, April 25.
April Vinding is the author of Triptych, a spiritual memoir, and teaches writing at Bethel University. She received an MFA from Hamline University and lives with her family in leafy, literary Minnesota. More at www.april-vinding.com.
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