Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Raid On The Inarticulate!

It’s high time to have something to say about Eliot on this web-log named in homage to his greatest work. So I will mention how I came under the thrall of the Four Quartets.

As first year student at the Canadian Nazarene College in Calgary, fresh off the bus from Chilliwack, British Columbia, I was prepared to be unimpressed. Not only was BC the coolest place in the world in my books (Alberta seemed stuck in the dark ages by comparison)… “Man, these Church songs are so 1994!” And I had been a relatively – ahem – competitive student at Chilliwack Senior. Actually, I think I’d been pretty obnoxious… “Ms. Morris, I really think I can do better than a 98!” So, to my amazement, the faculty at CNC were serendipitously brilliant and demanding. And generous people, too. Dr. Bowler’s Western Civilization lectures blew me out of the water with their forcefulness and unscripted hilarity, as did Dave Neale’s investigative broodings on the Bible and Terry Fach’s bright eyes for philosophy. But one thing struck my curiousity. As I got to know Terry and Kim Follis, our indefatigable Dean of Students, I noticed that they would occasionally weave in a line or two of mysterious poetry into the conversation. What was it? Was it Ecclesiastes? Was it a line from a Bruce Cockburn song I didn’t know? While rifling through old Portals (the CNC Annual) in Lee Blvd. one day, noticed that both Kim and Terry had used a quote from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

It began to stir something in me. I felt like I was being drawn out somewhere… though I wasn’t sure quite where. I was on some sort of exploration. Looking for God. Listening to Wilco’s Being There all the time. “To get to where you are going/ you must go by the way of dispossession.” Not doing that. Spending all my money on books and reading them, eating Cream of Wheat and apples, and drinking big cups of tea from the blue painted mugs that my sister Kim brought back from Portugal.

And so I went out and found a copy at “Author! Author,” the used bookstore on 10th Street in Sunnyside. Follis continued to quote the “wounded surgeon” section, and I continued to immerse myself in Eliot’s focused searchings for and against time, akin to Augustine looking for the eternal in and out of history. So Four Quartets became a sort of secular scripture for me, accompanying my journey like the Psalms of Ascent.

So when I began to get to know Krista, seven or so years later, in a different town (never thought I’d live in Edmonton!)… I had to share the Four Quartets with her. I summoned my courage to get it for her for her birthday… incidentally the same day as Ryan Wugalter’s. A bunch of us went out after Vespers. We couldn’t get into the Sugarbowl as it was too crowded on a Saturday night. We tried Remedy – same deal. People stood around. Vaguely lost. Spirits were lagging in the unseasonably warm spring night.

I thought, “Hey, maybe this would be a good time?”

“Krista, I got you a present.”


Yeah, here it is.

So, on the corner of 109th Street, standing on a corner outside the Rememdy Café, I gave my future bride (did she know then? Did I?) Four Quartets.

And we walked on, past the Garneau School, smoking some Romeo et Julietta cigars I’d run to profer, faring forward towards the party being prepared.


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