The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 31

Father Davidson finished his story near midnight, as the moon was bright and high in the northern sky—casting a cool white light upon the grassy orchard one moment, then hiding behind the rolling clouds the next. I accompanied him to his cabin, and we walked at a comfortable pace between rows of apple trees on our left: sweet smelling and ripe—some fruit past ripe, scattered and hidden among the tall grass—and a row of plum trees on our right, with new fruit ripening, and shiny in the moonlight. The air was warm and flowing, bringing life and movement to the world around us.

Father Davidson was in good spirits and invited me to have a cup of tea with him before I went to sleep. But first, he gathered a blanket and pillow for me, and set them at the top of the steps, outside his cabin door, if I chose to spend the night in the nearby hammock, as I had previously. He left the door open and called me in, pointing to a simple wooden chair near the small wood-burning stove in the corner of the room, as he sat down on the edge of his bed.

He smiled broadly, “I’m glad you’re here!…why are you here…?!” He cocked his head to the side and squinted, while smiling and then sipping from his cup.

I shifted in my chair, oh, how I despise open-ended questions like these, how should I answer? and what exactly is he asking me? Is he getting at something specific?…perhaps wanting me to reveal something that he already knows…or surmises about me? I smiled and looked around the small room, and replied feebly, “I don’t know…I suppose I have nowhere better to be…I mean, I don’t mean any offence, this is a perfectly good place to be, not that I’d rather be someplace else if I had the chance.”

Father Davidson laughed jovially and sipped some more tea, then replied happily: “Here, is always a good place to be. No matter where here is located.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with that and commented, rather more aggressively than I intended, “Maybe not always! Certainly not in a cave with three armed men that are kidnapping you. I don’t suppose that’s so good.”

“It depends on why you are there,” he answered. “If you can be in the cave for those other men…well, it can be a good place, if your motives are good.”

This confused me and I asked, “But you were taken against your will! It wasn’t your choice what happened there…so how can your motive be good or bad…you had no motive!”

“Are you certain!?” Father Davidson asked, still smiling and sipping his tea, apparently very pleased by our conversation and enjoying it immensely.

“Yes, and they assaulted you too! How would your good motives make that moment, in that place…good?!” I asked incredulously, and almost violently.

“Are we so disenfranchised?!” Father Davidson asked cryptically. “Do we not have freedom…are we not free to choose how we will react… or our motives…in a circumstance or a situation like that?! We hear that there is a time and a place for everything…isn’t that so?! Well…if we spend the times and places we find ourselves…spend them for those people we find ourselves with…then it is good!”

“Voltaire might disagree…’the best of all possible worlds’ and all that!” I retorted.

“Ours is a world of many worlds, within the world. Each person is a world unto themselves. Certainly those whom we meet, they may bring us into contact with their bad world…a worse world…or an evil world; but our best world is not founded upon an empty optimism, nor is it limited by the world which others might thrust upon us. No, if you will have the courage, and the humility, and the innocence to trust and find your home in God, then you can have the power to bring forth your own good world out into the wider world.”

We sipped our tea quietly, and I considered the Father’s words, as I glanced about his small cabin. It was just a room really—a rectangle about ten by twelve—with a bed in the middle, a desk and chair in one corner just to the left of the door, a wood-stove in the corner between the desk and the bed, and in the opposite corner was a small altar, topped with an oil-lamp, a few candles and icons; and finally a wardrobe occupied the remaining corner behind and to the right of the door. Windows framed the corner where the desk was situated, and there were two additional small windows in the far wall, to either side of the bed, one beside the wood-stove and the other next to the prayer corner. The walls, floor and ceiling all were constructed of aged wood planks, they looked like they had been salvaged from an old barn; and there were slight gaps here and there between the boards, which allowed a bit of light through in the daytime, I would guess, and a slight breeze through at any time day and night.

It was an unremarkable little cabin except for a quality that I couldn’t at first put my finger on: a character which left me perplexed, as I sat drinking my tea, taking in my surroundings. Have you ever encountered an ordinary thing?—maybe it was a car, or an article of clothing—or even, pardon me for saying it, an ordinary human being. Yet in the presence of their admirer, in the presence of the one who loves that ordinary thing, or person, in such an extraordinary way, you begin to see them differently, and their beauty suddenly unfolds before your eyes, a beauty which had been previously concealed to you, but now becomes obvious and indisputable. And it is because of the love, the pure love that is given unreservedly towards that thing or person—which was supposedly ordinary—that they are now revealed as exceptional. This was the quality suffusing Father Davidson’s little cabin. His love imbued it with beauty.

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