The speaker’s wife and I had gone downstairs, searched for, and found jugs for the water, and now the table was set for the tea ceremony. After much looking, I had given up finding the hook to pull the screen down for the slides. Given up finding a projector. The stage was ready: doors closed, tree in place, lighting right, chair, book and mats ready for the story telling. All looked ready, but it was not.
It was 10:30. Time to begin a worship service for a small, but very active, and, as I have told new speakers, intelligent and supportive Unitarian community. I had prepared a tightly timed service, short readings, smooth transitions. The timing was geared toward finishing by eleven thirty, to fit in a Chinese tea ceremony after before noon. The theme was imperfection, but I had no desire to be anything but perfect. I had to begin on time.
I approached the lectern, my nerves and my determination tight to the breaking point. I introduced myself, and asked the congregation to repeat the words for the ingathering song, the song that was supposed to be sung. Then I asked them to sing it.
I welcomed everyone, and particularly new people. I skipped over announcements, but was corrected in that when people arrived at the front. To avoid the problem of someone not introducing herself, I announced the speakers. This was not usual, but suddenly it seemed a good idea! Where was the singing bowl, the one I always used to begin the more contemplative part of the service? It was still in the cupboard. I tried some sort of tuning thing from the shelf, then noticed the bells which others use, and clanged them a couple of times. Not at all the way I like to begin. And somewhere in that time a piece of fabric draped over the lectern slipped off. I caught it before it got to the floor and placed it back, as it happens, over the clock that was there to help speakers time the service.
I could leave the congregational song to our song leader. I placed myself in position to read the story, and the story saved me. It was a simple one, and I think I told it reasonably well. Others had found the hook and pulled the screen down, had brought in the projector.
Had I “lost it”? Was this some pre-experience of dementia? At seventy-seven I was aware of the possibility. Or was it simply a response to the theme? Imperfection? I had done an excellent job of that. I went home and took a cracked mask down from its place on my balcony. The Japanese give attention to imperfection by filling the cracks of broken things with gold. I did not have gold, but I did have silver paint. I filled the cracks.