In honor of the DuBose lectures taking place at Sewanee this week, which I want to, but cannot, attend, we’re throwing it back to last year, when I did attend the lectures…and sent the following email home to friends:
Today I decided to change my plans.
Wait, you are thinking. I thought you were all gung-ho to get a Master’s, in like, God and Books and Stuff?
Well, yes. And I know you’re confused about this sudden change in plans, so let me tell you about the moment I knew for sure that I’d ended up in seminary by mistake. I was standing in the lobby of a stately Gothic auditorium, where a hundred people or more were waiting impatiently for the doors to open so they could stampede in and find a seat right up next to the stage.
Was it a Springsteen concert? A man juggling flaming Magic 8 balls? Oprah giving away the change from under her floormats?
No, you silly secular beings! An esteemed theologian – a truly lovely woman who has more knowledge in her small finger than I will ever possess – was about to take the stage to address the assemblage on the topic of Sacred Sacrifice.
I know what you’re thinking. Why wasn’t I invited? Well, first of all, there was no booze, so I didn’t think you’d come. And secondly, there just wasn’t time for me to get the engraving done on formal invites, and you know how I like to keep things classy.
Anyway, there I stood, feeling rather smug because I’d gotten myself there on time with matching shoes and all my buttons buttoned, and to my delight, there was a breakfast spread in the lobby: coffee, baked goods, fruit.
Grabbing a plastic cocktail cup, I filled it with cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes, and then moved into the middle of the lobby next to the Bishop and two of the seminary Deans, who were chatting about deeply important issues of faith. Forks weren’t provided – perhaps part of living into our lives with Christ involves eschewing utensils, since Jesus didn’t have sporks – so I pinched a grape with my fingers and popped it into my mouth.
Friends, you must believe me when I tell you this was not your ordinary grape.
This grape was SOUR. In fact, the word “sour” is completely inadequate to describe this toxic ball of death, which tasted as if a lemon and a kumquat had mated, beat their love child with a rotten grapefruit, rolled its corpse in the tears of jilted lovers, then left it to rot in a vat of sauerkraut. Straight from the bowels of hell, this evil fruit was grown on a bitter and twisted vine and handpicked by Satan himself to ruin my reputation at seminary.
How did it do that, you ask? Well, naturally, upon realizing what I had in my mouth — a piece of fruit that was obviously designed to kill me — I did what any rational person would do. I spit the half-chewed grape into my hand and hissed, Motherf*cker!
Apparently – and nobody told me this directly, so I’m having to infer it from the looks on the faces of everyone within a five mile radius – this is something of a no-no with the priestly set.
Having firmly cemented my status as seminary pariah early on, I’ve had to find ways to entertain myself. So, every day, I walk on part of the 20 mile trail that circles the top of the mountain.
It’s a beautiful walk, but it requires that you pay attention to your feet to navigate the streams, waterfalls, rocky outcroppings and crumbling precipices. Naturally gifted with the grace of a rhinoceros, I fall on a daily basis, generally onto my rear, but sometimes — in the interest of varying my routine — onto my knees, a hip, or, on one memorable occasion, my face.
Fortunately, the dogs and I are generally alone on the trail, which is a plus, in terms of retaining whatever smidgen of pride I might still possess at this stage of life, but is a downer in terms of safety, which I found out the day I accidentally slid halfway down the mountain before realizing I could easily lie in the bottom of a ravine with a broken neck for days before anyone noticed I wasn’t in class.
The most challenging part of the trail is a boulder three times my height. It is impossible to circumnavigate – trust me, I’ve tried (*refer to ‘falling on face’ passage*) – and so the only choice is to scale the face of it and enter the narrow stone passage at the top, where, for decades, stoners and students and stoned students have carved their names. I’ve gotten pretty good at going up and over, using my prehensile toes to grip the footholds and swinging myself up like a chimpanzee into the passage, where I inevitably stand up too quickly and slam my head against the rock roof, jarring loose whatever I’ve learned that week.
Here’s where my new career comes in.
As large as the dogs are, getting up the face of the boulder requires that they use both paws and claws for traction, and, when the rock is wet, as it often is, this poses a significant challenge. Being dogs, faced with a problem that cannot be eaten or chased, they do what dogs do: they lie down.
In my own defense, given the curtain of long blonde fringe that covers a golden retriever’s kibbles and bits, I didn’t really know where my hand was, until the day that the dog I was boosting up the face of the boulder let out a squeal and whipped his doggy head around to look at me the same way the guy at the beer tent did when I, mistaking him for my then-boyfriend, approached from behind and swatted his posterior in a way that might seem aggressively predatory, to a stranger.
That was the moment a new career opened up for me: Dog Proctology.
I don’t know any proctologists, canine or otherwise, so I can’t speak to what compels a med student on clinical rotations to decide that proctology is the specialty for him or her. But while we’re on the subject, isn’t it funny how squeamish men are about the whole “drop trou and cough,” which takes about thirty seconds of their annual physical exam, when women are routinely violated six ways from Sunday a couple times a year? Men act like anything below the belt is a shrine, meant to be visited and worshipped but never desecrated, while women hit adolescence and have about a five minutes to get used to the idea that, from now on, every appointment will begin with your doctor strapping on a miner’s light and going spelunking somewhere near your tonsils.
But we don’t want to detour into gender politics, because after all, the Lord God made us all – even me, despite what my professors think. And He gave us all special talents, and as the Sunday school song drilled into our heads, we’re not meant to hide those talents under a bushel. We’re meant to let them shine. Even as dog proctologists.
So enjoy this year’s DuBose, but take my advice: Stay Away from the Grapes!!