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Jan. 21st, 2012 | 04:42 pm
Every angel is terrifying, Rilke writes, and he is not wrong.
There is a cacaphony beneath them, among them, that screams into the volleys of heaven's apses and swirls down through the naves to St. Peter's gates. A shattering sound, they could collapse stars in all their might and could raze the earth in a vicious flutter.
They tried, once, until the impossible stopped them: two boys and their foster father, and one angel, who was maybe the most terrifying of them all.
How do you scare angels who refuse to feel?
Show them one that does.
There is a story that's told about a light with a name, that flirted in the penumbra of a distaster. It is a story of a light that found a man in the darkness and returned him from it.
This is the story of names and places found in blood and dust, and the valley between two beings that cleaved in on itself to make way for something new.
My love is building a building, ee cummings once wrote. A strong fragile house, with memory in its masonry, and even as it crumbles around us, the angel Castiel said, I will always remember you.
Some truths in this world are too heavy to know with a full gaze, and we are one of them, the angel Castiel said, with your soul shining so brightly it blinds even the stead-fastest of angels, and my clamouring voice that ricochets to the highest peaks and back in echo of the ages. It was singing for you, that last syllable, that echoed down from Mount Olympus and told the Fates to wait another day.
In the moment of my dying I glimpsed you on the shoreline. Our positions reversed somehow, while I was busy looking elsewhere--turned around too soon I think, and you were gone.
This is what they call all things great and terrible, the bursting burden of creation and collisions, how one man stopped in the middle of the ending of all things and turned back, like Orpheus searching his beloved in the dark. And of Eurydice, who would have stayed forever in his presence if only for the impossible pulling bringing them back beneath the waves. There was a word whispered in the desperate clawing up for air, but it was drowned out be the violent crashes of the sea.
A conversation with a monk some years ago went like this: as the angel stood in the small garden, the man told him he enjoyed it here because he was fascinated in finding God in the smallest of things. He picked up a budding flower and told the tall, glorious angel it was a miracle, that such intricate detail could be conceived in the delicate petals. But it was more than this, he said, that it wasn't devotion of design that compelled him, but the proof of life despite itself clawing up through the arid, craggy land that his monastery was built on.
This is God, he said, in all his glory, in the sullied soil and that pathetic flower, because it rose from its own despair to shine its colour through the deep greys of monastic stone.
When Castiel retrieves the righteous man from the darkness, he thinks he finally understands.
He paints the man back to who he should be, who he is, unburned and unbroken in the flesh (although still too burdened elsewhere--some weights still too heavy to be lifted). He adds back colour and re-fuses line, churning charred pigments into vivacious values that sculpt arms and hands--new, old hands that Castiel grasps tightly once before letting go and sinking Dean Winchester back into the earth. These are all human words for recreation; they will be for the most remarkable human he's ever met.
The ink of his work stains his fingers. It will never wash off.
When Castiel first touches down on earth after so long an absence, he feels lifted despite himself at the mission before him--the glory of good, of God, of Winchester. His feathers feel vibrant in the flickering light of a barn.
When Castiel last touches the earth, he feels pulled down by an impossible weight. What use are wings when they are melted by the blackness, after all.
His last thought is of water, and how strange it is that it should feel so soft when every part of him is burning.
When the light returns from the darkness again, it is of little affair, considering. The world is still in ashes, or only just. The brothers Winchester still fraught as ever by the hand they've been dealt, bad hand after bad hand and their last card spells out their execution in this rigged game from the start.
But Castiel, he was always something different, unbound to the odds of a number or suit, free finally from his own restrictions of peace or freedom, we cannot have both.
But as Dean Winchester breathes into Castiel's now too-human mouth, he wonders if this is not freedom. And as he touches the cheek of the sleeping man later, he wonders if this is not peace.
Maybe, maybe not. But it's a sort he takes to the church later, the dirty roads murmuring as he passes with human paces, and as he picks up a small stone on the way, palming it as he walks. The lancet arches sigh against each other as he gives thanks. To whom, he knows not. But thank you, he says, for everything.
He touches the pebble in his pocket, the smallest of foundations. This is a new start.