Writer’s Salon Class Excerpt by Joe George

In our latest #meetbayarts series, we met Joe George MD of Vermillion, who has been in Writer’s Salon with Susan Mangan for the past 3 years. Below is an excerpt of his writing work from that class.

He could sense in the darkness that, at long last, he had alighted the ridge. The timber forest, bestrewn with the tangled and gnarled tendrils of the fallen trees, was behind him, and a vast space now revealed itself. It fell impossibly before him. A gust of wind, imbued with the snow and cold of the unfathomable depth of the unseen valley enshrouded in the night, lashed at the exposed skin of his face. It burned as fire, belying the great distance it had travelled, and he could feel the redness pooling in his cheeks. He bathed in the openness, drawing the cold air deeply into his aching lungs, and remembered being in church as a young boy.

He remembered a great calm around him. He felt the constricting and unfamiliar feel of the starched collar against his neck, and the pinching at the belly of the husky-sized dress pants. The dress shoes were stiff and uncomfortable, and produced a thunderous echo as he walked across the timeless and well-worn timbers that lined the aisle. The sound echoed rapturously into the high, open beamed ceiling, and reverberated in a finality that was as light cast upon a long-forgotten truth. At times such as this, he was acutely aware of his impermanence.

In the great sanctuary, he had felt the still air pressing upon him. Its scent housed the smell of the oiled wood of the pews, the wax of countless candles burned across the decades, and the well-worn leather binding of the hymnals. The sun’s rays poured through the stained glass, opaque and illuminating the never-ceasing dust particles that would dance behind anyone or anything who moved in the hallowed space. He loved the dust. It moved as waves of turbulence, dancing in the milky light, but always, and without exception, it returned to its still vigil. He had the vague and atavistic feeling that he was one of these particles, ebbing and flowing in the chaos of life, destined to become still again.

At one end of the sanctuary sat a beautiful wooden organ that had been constructed in Germany and tuned in the baroque circular fifths. As a child he had loved to sit in the simple and upright pews, and listen to the music as it poured forth from the aged brass pipes. The old choirmaster would sit upon its bench, working the foot pedals so gracefully that it appeared he was dancing a waltz with the magnificent contraption of wood and metal and moving air. The small tubes produced high notes that would soar upwards as birds ascending into a blue cloudless sky, and the large ten foot tall pipes would unleash a rumbling and disconcerting and palpable fury. At times, it seemed to him as if he felt the music rather than hearing it. But either way, he would be driven to tears as he listened to it; as he was moved by it.

Opposite the old organ was the altar. Like everything else in the church, it was old and simple and grand. Life went on around it, to be sure, but the church was stolid and timeless. Nearly every important spiritual event in his life had occurred there. He had been baptized there, he had taken his first communion there, and it was there that he had pledged his troth. His children had been confirmed there. And interspersed amongst these events, there had been countless weddings and baptisms and funerals, festivals and classes. He was grounded there, and when he was overwhelmed or tired, he would sneak into the sanctuary and breath in the seemingly ancient air, and he would become still. It was his home. It was where he had first contemplated concepts such as mortality and transitoriness; love and loss; wickedness and evil. But it was now all gone, burned to the ground by an arsonist. In the cold and dark, he felt a great sadness deep within his chest. He had been rudderless in the currents for a long time, but alone on the mountain, he realized the difference between the skeleton and the spirit. One is destined to falter and fall, while the other exists of its own accord, beholden to none. The sinews shall rupture and the bones shall break, but the spirit will emerge unscathed.

– by Joe George MD

BAYarts offers Creative writing classes in Cleveland, Ohio. Susan Mangan’s Writer’s Salon class runs 4x’s a year, and is open to all levels. You can find the listing for it on https://bayarts.net/class-list#adults.