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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

True Devotion

Music update: mostly silence.

I’ve become accustomed to the silence. It doesn’t haunt me to the degree it did last summer. I guess I never fully understood, till now, that my love for music reflected the music in my soul. My soul is quietly hiding somewhere these days, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about that. I hope to find it again someday. I yearn for music in my life.

One song is the lone exception. I listen to the BoDeans on my car stereo. I don’t drive all that much or often, so it’s just a sometimes thing. I had “Only Love” on auto-replay for many months. Now it’s “True Devotion.” I listen to it over and over again. Sam Llanas’ voice reflects the way I feel…

True Devotion

I was lucky for a long, long time
I never felt much pain
A mess of clouds came over me
The night it finally rained
In my hand there's a silver heart
It says you belong to me
But it's empty and used up
I'm sailing off to sea

Going down, going down
Swallow an ocean
Going down, going down
With true devotion

When the rain started coming down
It was so hard to see
Swear I lost you in the crowd
When you were right there with me
People scattering everywhere
Trying to make it back home
And I slipped and fell on my ass
I'm going down alone


All I see is icy blue
And I don't feel the waves
It doesn't matter anyhow
I know I won't be saved
Before you go to sleep tonight
Say a prayer for me, yeah
And all the other wasted souls
Drowning definitely

Going down, going down
Swallow an ocean
Going down, going down
With true devotion

* * *

In my hand there's a silver heart

The lyric transports me back to 1975. My head fills with images of the “Dawn Gate” Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. Calling it a Church is to indulge in hyperbole. It’s more akin to a chapel-ette, if that. This Church is nothing more than two steep staircases and a small, enclosed walkway across the top of the “Dawn Gate.” The gate is a remnant of the ancient 11th century wall that encircled and protected Vilnius.

It is a tiny, but sacred place. Inside is the most famous religious icon of Lithuania: “The Dawn Gate Madonna.” I wear her visage on a silver medal that’s hung around my neck for almost forty years. Coming face to face with the Madonna was astounding enough for this long lost native son…but there is more. Every inch of wall space is festooned with gold and silver amulets. There are tiny arms, legs and hearts everywhere, fashioned from these precious metals. They represent the countless prayers asked and answered across the centuries. This is a truly holy place. A sanctuary and a shrine. Fervent tears have washed the floor and stairs across the ages, as people through time, now long forgotten, prayed for deliverance from suffering, war, heartache and disease…for themselves...or for their loved ones.

In olden days, pious pilgrims would enter the Church on their knees and crawl their way skyward to pray before the Madonna. The poor, the humble and the grief-struck climbed their weary way up the narrow staircase to pay homage and beg for mercy, blessings or redemption. Tongues do not speak aloud in such a sacred place. This is a site where only souls may speak to God…and hope that God is listening.

As I descended from the shrine, I saw an old, old peasant woman entering the Church. She was dressed entirely in black, in 18th century garb (the peasantry hadn’t changed much in the Soviet Union, then). Her head was bowed, and she clutched a rosary within her gnarled fingers. Her knees had been rubbed raw.

She left a trail of blood glistening in her wake.

* * *

Postscript: I would gladly crawl on my hands and knees to fasten a golden heart in gratitude within the Dawn Gate Church if only my heart would heal. Sad to say, some prayers are never answered. But, then again, I suppose some prayers are not meant to be answered.

* * *


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