January at the Bay of Rainbows
My son was the first toddler on the Moon. He visited the Oceanus Procellarum and learned the Milky Way.
When he came back to Newark Bay, he said, “Our bay is really the Bay of Rainbows. Tell me the story of the galaxy—not the Milky Way.”
I said, “Ten thousand years ago, I left the Sugar Shack and went to work in Hodges Chapel at Beeson Divinity School, where my heart first palpitated. On my birthday, men came to tune the organ and left the door unlocked. I clomb inside, and up in the pipes I saw the galaxy, El Unicornio Azul. Then I saw a purple planet within it, then a water bear in its core. I was one thousand times smaller than she; we were the Sun and UY Scuti. I smiled. Water bears don’t smile, but they have a way of flexing and unflexing their uppermost claws that shows pleasure. She flexed and unflexed.
“We didn’t speak with voices; I flicked the pipes and she sent thrums through my ribcage. Her name was Hosanna. She told me about her home galaxy: ‘Our planets are birthstones and they’re alive: in their tropospheres, rainbow hurricanes swim, spice deserts grow, and my children live.
“‘We have one star: a California poppy. She does the work; every morning, she orbits through the jewelry box of planets, blooming and polishing them with light just right to drowse to. When she sleeps at night, the planets wake. The birthstones agree there’s no one as generous as the Poppy. That’s why God planted her in the stellar nursery seven billion years ago—to show us dying and rising again. He speaks the gospel to us through the Poppy.
“‘I live in the cinnamon desert of Amatista. I left home one day to look for life in the many-verse—’”
“Maní-verse?” my son asked.
“No, baby, many, more than one. Hosanna thrummed, ‘To leave a planet, we burrow toward the core. When I reached the thing in my galaxy that’s most like your Sun, I opened my eyes and saw the inside of the organ in Hodges Chapel. It was the year Orgues Létourneau built the organ, your year 1995. I waited in wordless prayer. Today I heard your shoes tapping on the marble, so I thrummed. It pleases me to find life outside of El Unicornio Azul. It pleases me that your kind are still here.’
“I flicked the pipes, ‘But my kind, humans, break things they find. They plant Superfund sites in New Jersey, they dump feces in space so it burns like shooting stars, and they want to throw nuclear waste in the Mariana Trench so it subducts with the Pacific Plate. Humans take away the children of other humans.’
“Hosanna unflexed all thirty-two of her claws. I bowed my head in repentance. She thrummed, ‘That’s why God hid us here in the organ.’
“‘Please tell me your creation story,’ I said.
“She flexed and unflexed her uppermost claws. ‘You’ve read it. I am the ‘Hosanna’ humans shouted at the Triumphal Entry. God first considered me in Psalm 118, and when humans shouted in praise of Jesus, they gave me birth. Afterward, he carried me to Amatista, where I’ve lived since.’
“I asked her why.
“‘You’ve told me about humans; maybe he didn’t want humans to destroy me. Maybe he wanted to hide away a bit of the praise they gave to Jesus so they couldn’t break it.’
“‘But no one even knows you’re there. What good does it do if you’re hidden away?’ I said stupidly. I was only twenty-one.
“Hosanna unflexed subtly. My stupidity grieved her. ‘God makes his creatures for his enjoyment and for their enjoyment. He doesn’t make them for humans to dissect.’
“Then I cried an Oceanus Procellarum that washed me out of the organ, through the nave, out of the narthex, and into the profane.
“I woke up the next morning on Odum Lane. I couldn’t remember anything after the Oceanus Procellarum. I panicked. Worried that Hosanna would be gone from the organ, I left your daddy sleeping and ran down the hill to the chapel. The south side door was open, so I burst through it. I was so young and so stupid.
“Another chapel attendant was giving a tour. I crouched in the apse behind a pew before anyone saw me. When they left, I tried to sneak into the organ, but the door was locked. I’d been afraid Hosanna would leave; I hadn’t considered that God wouldn’t let me back in.”
“Why didn’t he let you in?”
“Maybe because I wasn’t right inside. Maybe because I wasn’t ready.”
“Did you ever see her again?” my son de-rhotacized.
“Yes, last January, ten thousand years later on the bulwark at Newark Bay. You slept in your stroller and I slept awake, snow on my face. I woke somewhere else. It was dark and warm and alive: the womb of Amatista. Hosanna thrummed, ‘I’ll take you up through the mantle and crust.’”
“What did you say, Mom?”
“I was ten grains of sugar wiser this time. I said nothing.
“Hosanna and I ascended. When we cracked the twelve-foot-thick jewel-crust, I almost cried another Oceanus Procellarum. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”
“More beautiful than our Bay of Rainbows?”
“A little. A Spanish blue hurricane approached us. She was waterless and made of sugar—a sugarcane. She lifted us up and handed us to her Prunus ‘Kanzan’ mothercane in the tropopause, who laid us down on the bougainvillea ground. The quartz was hard and cool on my feet, bare now though it was January at the Bay of Rainbows. Hosanna and I walked. When we reached dunes that were golden-brown, sweet and spicy in my soul, my stomach was so hungry that I almost cried another Oceanus Procellarum. Still, I said nothing. Then I saw that walking my bare feet through the cinnamon fed me. I learned to wait.
“I could hear the Poppy singing in her sleep somewhere in space, but the troposphere was silent except for the thrumming of Hosanna’s children. In the silence was the Word as God spoke it.i I saw then that Amatista and the other planets of El Unicornio Azul were not just jewels—they were hearts palpitating, fed by the golden light-blood of the Poppy.
“Hosanna thrummed to me that even though it was easy for me to leave the Sugar Shack when I was twenty-one, it would be hard for me to return ten thousand years later, in the year of the Holy Fire.
“I contemplated this for ten months. I contemplated asking a question about it. I contemplated our first meeting in the organ. I contemplated my stupidity. I contemplated whether, after I had questioned her hiddenness, Hosanna thought about the billions of years when everything existed before God made humans on Earth. If I was her, I’d have stripped a stupid youth bare: What about Titanis walleri? Micropachycephalosaurus? Cygnus falconeri? Paraceratherium? What about Arambourgiania philadelphiae? Did God make them for humans, those who lived and wept and joyed and died before he ever made a single cell of your body? God did not even tell you about them in the Bible! But she didn’t say any of that; she was sweet to me even though I was so young and so stupid. Hosanna was truly a bit of praise born in the mouth of someone speaking to Jesus.
“I decided against asking. Instead, I looked into Hosanna’s eyes. One palpitation later, I saw up into a blue-green singularity in yet another galaxy, the one we call Ouranós; two palpitations later, I saw up into the pipes of the organ; three palpitations later, I saw up into the beloved sass of our Bay of Rainbows.”
“You came back?”
“I came back.”
“Mama, I met Hosanna on the Moon today. She took me to Orangecrest. She told me that it’s the year of the Holy Fire, so it’s time to go back.”
An Oceanus Procellarum filled my eyes. Hosanna was right. It was going to be hard. Harder than the bougainvillea quartz. I asked my son, “Why?”
He answered, “That’s just how life is.”
i Johannes Tauler, Sermons, trans. Maria Shrady (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 36, 38.
Laura Arciniega’s work has appeared in Rascal Journal, Saint Katherine Review, is this up, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son. You can find her online at lauraaliciaarciniega.wordpress.com and on Twitter @LauraAArciniega.