This past week in Iowa, at points, has felt as hot as Hades. Which may explain why, this second time around, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival has reminded me a little of those charismatic tent revivals of my youth.
Not because it was the Festival’s business or even their intent to save souls or inspire folks to immerse themselves in the baptismal waters of the word. Nor was it — where these two acts, in previous meetings had not accomplished the ‘write’ trick — to pray folks out of their hard, unforgiving pews to walk down to the altar for a very public re-dedication to the word.
What this means, in part, is that I never once encountered anything akin to the eternal drone of words, heard from upon high, more effective than Sominex, — that when mixed with occasional outbursts of fervent hallelujahs — worked upon me like a buzzing alarm clock. Nor did I have need to entertain myself in meetings by passing down folded-up notes to friends — or occupying myself with rolled-up paper to swat flies and mosquitoes lighting on my sweaty skin — though it’s true our classroom’s air-conditioning was broken during the two hottest days of the week.
All this, of course, is a way of saying that the week in Iowa has been beyond the wonder of dreams. That I found better uses for paper and lived like a monk on retreat from the world, shying away from all forms of amusement except what rose out of the working of words. And that while no one set out to save me from my lazy and distracted self, maybe it happened anyway. Because — and God help me to articulate it — this morning I feel much like I did when I was seven and freshly “saved” — thanks to those lovely church ladies of summer vacation bible school — after I walked down the altar and walked away a little confused. I was at a loss for words when folks, then, asked me about it afterward. Then, I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t quite know what had happened, if anything — where now, I don’t know what to say because I don’t know what has happened, if anything.
So unlike Moses, while I leave a sacred place, I do so without trekking down any mountaintops with stone table of commandments in my hand. Instead, I tip-toe away quiet and with a fair share of humility. For just as I did the first time around, when I attended two years ago, I leave knowing what I don’t know.
Except that weather forecasters are predicting another round of scorching heat for today.