February 19 – the 101st birthday of Carson McCullers, author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and other Southern Gothic masterpieces. Followers of this blog will know of my fascination with McCullers, one of the great writers about longing. Or what the poet Nick Norwood has called “spiritual isolation.” But there are moments when her characters break into a momentary sense of connection as in this passage of a man sharing his thoughts on love in a diner with a boy who has wandered in. From McCullers’s short story, ‘A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.’:
“When I laid myself down on a bed and tried to think about her my mind became a blank. I couldn’t see her. I would take out her pictures and look. No good. Nothing doing. A blank. Can you imagine it?”
…”But a sudden piece of glass on a sidewalk. Or a nickel tune in a music box. A shadow on a wall at night. And I would remember. It might happen in a street and I would cry or bang my head against a lamppost. You follow me?”
“A piece of glass…” the boy said.
For a moment this day when our essential connection comes clear, O Lord, we pray.