Thursday, February 02, 2017
like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
First, it was the drums. An incessant aboriginal rhythm.
Thoughts of mayhem danced around my head. That may be because I spent the night finishing up Peter Cozzens's The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West.
But, the thoughts vanished with the familiar burst of a cohete -- the sky rockets that inevitably accompany one of our local Catholic processions. Most of the groups form up in the parking lot of the sports park (what Barco and I re-christened the "dog park") two blocks from my house.
I yelled to Christy to join me. From the sound of the drums, the procession had already passed our block. So, we ran to overtake them.
For a lot of celebrations, especially the feast of Guadalupe, the processions include throngs -- often with trucks transformed into religious tableaux. But that is to celebrate the patron saint of Mexico. If I understood correctly, this procession was honoring my barrio's patron saint -- San Felipe de Jesus.
There appears to be a traditional structure for the processions. There is almost always a banner carried in the front of the group.
Then dancers attitred in a semblance of tribal dress follow, accompanied by drummers. Most of the processions I have seen have featured several dancer associations.
Not this procession. It had only one small group echoing the rhythm of the drums that had originally caught my attention.
And there was one other factor that appeared unusual. All of the participants were female -- with the sole exception of the older man carrying the banner. I did not have an opportunity to ask anyone if that was significant. Or if it was simply what it was.
Even the keeper of the cohetes -- those sky rockets that make northern dogs pine for tranquil Regina nights -- was a young woman. And she performed her ritual with the expertise of true pyrotechnician. Never once losing that winsome smile.
Later, Christy, Josh, Jeremiah, and I decided to walk through our neighborhood on our way to tacos at my neighbor's restaurant. I am glad we did.
The street that runs in front of the church contains the detritus of amusement -- a bouncy castle, a small carousel, a kiddy car ride. Signs certain that a saintly feast day is in the making.
The dancers, who had earlier passed by the house, now filled the aisle of the small, partly-completed church. The drums continued to beat. And the dancers circled and twirled before the altar -- reminding me of Anatole France's Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame.
France's tale is of a French juggler who joined a monastery. When he could think of no other gift to offer a statue of Mary, he did what he knew how to do. He juggled well.
And that is exactly what these Mexican women, dressed in their red "Indian" tunics and carrying their stylized weapons, were doing. They were offering up their talents to their faith.
Unlike the juggler's fellow monks, those of us who observed the ritual could easily understand the value of the heart and faith that was being offered.
I hope we heard Jesus' words in our own hearts: "You go and do as [they] did."*
* -- Luke 10:37