Out of Control

You know how it is when someone does something funny in a situation where no one should be laughing?

Today during our daily conference, where we discuss the nits and lice of daily life — who needs the car, shopping needs for the day, house repairs needed and so on — one of the sisters jumped back and clapped her hands together loudly, then resumed talking as if nothing unusual had happened. Startled, the rest of us reacted. “Wow. That’s quite a tic you’ve developed there …” was probably the best one. We all laughed.

But somewhere deep inside each of us, the funny bone had been tickled. Snickering evolved into guffaws. This was really, really funny. Of course there was a reasonable explanation: the sister was trying to dispatch a bothersome gnat, buzzing around her head. Not all that strange, really.

But funny.

We resumed our meeting, and the day went on. I turned a newly made cheese every hour. A phone appointment occurred. A dog coat was constructed to protect Simon from the frigid weather to come. The duck houses were gussied up with tarps, straw bales and new hasps and hinges so the -12° temperatures to come wouldn’t harm those fragile feet and caruncles. Plans were completed for the trip to upstate New York and the NOFA conference.

At 5:30 we headed out to the chapel for Evening Prayer. There we were, beginning one of the most solemn and lovely offices in the daily round of prayer. “Now that we have come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the Vesper light … “ Solemn. Beautiful. Serious.

Until the first snort of laughter exploded.

I don’t know what triggered the connection to that gnat-killing hand-clap, but there it was. And all of us were laughing and crying at the same time, unable to stop.

As far as I can tell, this was the first time in the seventeen years I’ve spent in this Community that we thought we might have to memorialize an office due to hysterics. We just couldn’t stop. We tried everything: saying rather than singing; laughing uncontrollably for awhile, to see if we could get ourselves under control. It got better, but it never disappeared entirely, even when we sang the final respond for a double feast. Poor Paul; not an entirely respectful honoring of his conversion.

We meant him no harm, of course; we tried our best to reign in the snickering. But sometimes you just have to let laughter have its way. Time will fix it eventually.

Our apologies for this unorthodox celebration of your life, dear Paul. We hope that you, too, had an occasionally quirky sense of humor that carried you away from your speaking goal on the wings of silliness. Or at least some tolerance for those of us who do.


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