A Summer’s Tale

Spring has turned to steamy summer outside the parish hall of Blessed Redeemer Church in suburban Chicago. It’s Mayday, 2100. Father Carlos is cleaning up before his new assistant pastor comes to move into the office they’ll share. The white neck-border of his blue sleeveless scoop-neck shirt represents a clerical collar. He’s comfortable in matching blue shorts and cork sandals, with the temp. at 730 and mildly stirring air from his solar-powered fan.

He glances out at his garden strip, at the peony bushes with peach-colored blossoms–a long-blooming varietal for these warm springtimes. An air-lifted, magnetized tram whiffs by, emitting high pinging tones of warning as it approaches the stop near the church. Carlos sees several people waiting, some dressed in pale greens and yellows for the season. The dwarf plum trees are also still flowering, in their fenced and watered sidewalk tree circles.

The peonies remind him of one of his favorite parishioners, a nurseryman who’s an associate or oblate of the Benedictines, now away at the monastery. He enjoys some weeks each year as part of the order. Carlos flips on the depth-vision above and behind his desk. A three-dimensional image appears in mid-air, projected from the dv’s back and side panels. He taps on an ecclesiastical channel. There’s just a show now about a monastery–a segment on some music being composed there. The monks are instrument makers. He half listens while shuffling piles on his desk.

Mellow wind instruments are playing in fast soft counterpoint with mouth harps and two-stringed, bowed Chinese instruments, that bend to produce different string tensions for the notes. Male voices chant a figured-bass line in Latin. The monastery was built a few decades ago in an alkali high desert region of Oregon, with aluminum-soil plateaus. Out at the edge of its property is an ancient lava bed of twisted, porous black rock. Solitude can still be found there.

The monks cultivate genetically engineered plants, including eerily large cactuses, and groves of scrub pines from which they market the pinenuts. There’s also a desert-evergreen groundcover with tough needles, gray-greening part of the monastery grounds. The camera pans to a couple of strawberry cactuses in bloom with huge pink flowers. The buildings are set into the base of a pink cliff, where cool chambers partly underground were blasted out, for a kitchen, chapel, and instrument storage.

The chant is celebrating the last treaty, thirty years ago today, to end nuclear testing in Africa. It alternates praises of the negotiators with prayers of lament for a different region. In India, millions had died and part of the sub-continent was left uninhabitable, except by a few mutated insects and desert plants, when a “limited deployment” bomb was detonated there sixty years ago.

Since then there’s been no nuclear war. Carlos thinks it’s because the many countries with the weapons always managed to notice that using them would ruin and unpeople their own lands as well as the enemy’s, for unknown generations to come.