The sceptre, learning, physick, mustMy family moved to the DC area for the first time in 1983, when I was starting second grade. Being who we were the first thing we did was find a church. The one we ended up at, St Stephens UMC, had a round (octagonal, but whatever) sanctuary rather than the standard two-columns-of-pews arrangement, which was neat. It also had a great pipe organ, and a white-haired organist who I can't recall ever not being there.
All follow this, and come to dust.
--Wm. Shakespeare, "Cymbeline"
Steel on the skylineWe left DC in '86 but still occasionally came to services at St Stephens. When we moved back in '91 we started going again. I got more involved with the church for a few years: ushering, youth group, that sort of thing. I was never on more than nodding acquaintance with the organist, which I can tell by how his name sticks in my mind as "Bob Layne" rather than "Mr Layne," but he was as much a fixture as the round sanctuary or Mr Prosser the head usher. (More so than the preacher; Methodists tend to change preachers every few years, to avoid the situation where the guy who's been in the pulpit for decades up and dies and nobody trusts the new preacher until he's been there five or ten years.)
Sky made of glass
Made for a real world
All things must pass
--David Bowie, "Heathen (The Rays)"
There's flowers now on Linn Street, and a new moon just aboveI drifted away from the church over the course of several years but I still went back on occasion to see people. After all, these were the only non-relations I'd known for longer than five years, then ten. Always, every time I went back, Bob Layne was at the organ, looking exactly like I remembered him.
They tore down all the houses where we used to make love
But they'd been long abandoned when we went there, anyway
And I can still smell the lilacs in the corner of the Dream Café
--Greg Brown, "Dream Café"
Yet all things come in time to die.As you might have expected from the fact that I'm writing this, he's gone now, along with Mr Prosser and the round sanctuary and my perception of the church as a loving and welcoming place. (That last took a mortal blow twenty years ago when they fired one of their best and most-loved people with no notice, on suspicion of homosexuality. It hung on for awhile but never made anything like a recovery.) Bob Layne's death doesn't mean anything, but I guess it symbolises quite a lot.
--Graydon Saunders, "A Succession of Bad Days"
For a word to be spoken, there must be silence. Before, and after.Addendum: "Robert Lee Layne." For fuck's sake, treason-in-defence-of-slavery apologists.
--Ursula K. Le Guin, "A Wizard of Earthsea"
The past is never dead. It's not even past.
--William Faulkner, "Requiem for a Nun"