A MYSTIC AT HEART
Marriage, birth, and death test the limits of faith
BY MINNA PROCTOR
“If your mother had brought you for a reading the day you were born,” said The Astrologer, “I would have said: Mrs. Proctor, tell this kid that when she gets to ’07, she’s going to enter into a very nutty time. And nothing in her life is going to go according to schedule, and it’s not of her own doing. If before ’07, if she settles down in the suburbs and has 2.5 kids and an SUV and 1.2 dogs and a white picket fence and all that stuff, she’s just going to end up walking out on her family, saying ‘I’ve had it.’”
So, this was destined to be a period of destruction, dismantling, and derangement in my life. There were too many Gods vying for predominance. I couldn’t be true to any of them; I couldn’t be partial to some of them. They all had contradicting imperatives: take heed of your mortality, live large, lighten up, get serious, fall in love, date a lot, get married, have kids, travel, laugh, cry, feel shame, stop living for other people, buy shoes, be thrifty, go barefoot, cut the cord, hang tight. Or, as The Astrologer put it, “You’re in a crucible of chaos.”
My Brooklyn neighborhood was kind of like a suburb. I didn’t have the white picket fence and 2.5 kids, but I did have a new marriage to a man I’d been with for a long time and loved entirely, I’d recently published a book, I was in excellent health, I was on boards of charitable organizations and a Jewish group, the house was tidy and attractive, our cat was a stunner, my family was proud of me, I was proud of me. And then I did just pick up and leave. And I had a baby — and my mother died. Everything that I didn’t know about life converged on this astonishing moment. It’s Pluto’s fault. He kills everything so that it can be reborn.
I am a skeptic. The Astrologer confirmed it: “In youth, your chart is that of the disbeliever,” he said, “the one who doesn’t want to give over, the one who asks a lot of questions, too many questions.”
Or I was a skeptic. “The older you get,” he continued, “the more this turns into the chart of the mystic.”
I was a communist at four; a sharp-tongued atheist by fifteen; at twenty-five, I was, like my mother, occasionally curious about but essentially uninterested in Judaism except with regard to the Holocaust. I was also at this time transitioning out of a collegiate aversion to identity politics and into an incipient sentimental yearning for “family” (though I didn’t know yet exactly what I meant by that). When I turned thirty, my father, whom I worshipped but lived too far away from, told me he wanted to become an Episcopal priest. The depth of his spiritual life and religious convictions came as an embarrassing surprise to me — a demonstration of how partially I was involved in his vast second life, and my first intimate encounter with the unique and often urgently private nature of religious experience. Shamefully, I understood nothing about his spirit or religion, or how it fit into our tenuously shared adult life. I wrote a book about it — about faith, the language of faith, what it meant to him, what it did and didn’t mean to me as I understood it, what I inherited of his lapsed and regained Christianity, how very much I shared of my mother’s secular and sporadically spiritual Judaism. For me, the whole subject was essentially unexplored intellectual territory: philosophy with consequence and conviction, philosophy with ambition.
My book editor kept describing the project as a quest. I kept resisting that descriptive; it seemed too syndicated-UHF-television for me. I wasn’t struggling with a quest as much as I was reveling in a burgeoning impression of what having answers might feel like. The religious discussions I was having while researching my book began to provide a kind of clearinghouse for all of my basic adult concerns: Why did I believe in marriage even after my parents had made such mash of theirs? Why did I prize family even though mine was only partially functional? What purpose the life of the mind? Where did I fit into what? And so on.
The Judaism of my demographic — the Judaism I found while working on my book — was wildly appealing. It seduced the sentimental skeptic in me: community-driven, well-oiled, white collar, and doggedly intellectual. Praying stood in for studying, hard questions had answers in textual riddles, and the moral structure seemed earthy and practical. It was a world of listservs and boisterous children, and well-appointed homes stuffed with books, wine, and (sometimes) salami. It was hard not to love it, hard not to feel secure in that world, to feel as if you were going to be OK, no matter how anarchic your past, how insecure your professional world, how deeply ingrained your patterns of confusion, how manipulative your mother, or how mortal.
This was, in no small sense, a palpable model of everything I hoped for from my life. I never wanted a big bling ring or a white princess dress, I just desperately wanted an intact family. The Jews had a strategy: honor the mind, cherish your family, do good in the world. It was almost like a science of hope.
And then everything collapsed. After a fifteen-year battle, my mother’s breast cancer metastasized to her skin and collarbone. My fiancé slept with someone else, and so we got married. He took a job in another state I didn’t want to go to. I had an affair with a married man, and he left his wife and I left my husband. I got pregnant, had a baby. My mother died. The bricks and mortar of my dream fell away. I cried for a year. I felt like I was losing my mind. As far as doing good — I might as well have lashed a bayonet to my forehead. All that high-minded Jewishness puckered and curled back from the surface, a shiny, heat-resistant veneer.
“So,” The Astrologer said, “the first God competing for your attention is Saturn. Saturn is all about mortality. He’s the responsible one, the mature one. He’s the stern voice of your conscience; he’s about shame and guilt. He’s saying, ‘Get your act together … Get married, have children.’”
My husband and I had been engaged for a year and were regularly attending a Judaism 101 for Adults class when we approached the rabbi about getting married with a Jewish ceremony. I was an eager but unlearned Jew; he was an open-minded atheist. The rabbi didn’t always perform mixed marriages but made an exception for us. We promised to raise our eventual children Jewish (as opposed to nothing).
We agreed on a lot of things (meatballs, Hugo Boss, Naples), but I think our mutual desire for stability came to rest on this hyperfunctional brand of Judaism. It was Norman Rockwell compared to how we’d been brought up, charming and optimistic. It gave us confidence in our future.
When my husband told me he’d had sex with someone else — a revelation that came on the heels of the news about my mother’s failing health — he said to me, “I’ve ruined our life.” I rushed to reassure him. I believed that the life we’d built was too strong to be ruined. I guess I’d also believed that he would never do that to me.
There was the most peculiar moment, soon after that, when we went to the rabbi’s house to talk about the wedding. Sitting with the rabbi in his living room, chatting about family, instructional books to read, useful Judaica to acquire, and dates — my husband said that he thought he might want to convert. Despite all the studying and signing on to a Jewish wedding and children, I hadn’t ever considered the possibility of a full conversion. I responded with amazement, “But you’re an atheist!”
What I really wanted to say was, “But you cheated on me!”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “but I’ve been thinking I might be interested.”
I think what he wanted to say was that he wanted to heal us. It was a gesture; he believed in us. That big-hearted, hapless, cynical misanthrope found faith in us.
Our secret seemed so potent there, then. As if it had a life of its own, and if I didn’t clasp my hands very carefully in my lap and keep my legs crossed just so, it might spill out everywhere.
What neither of us said was that we wanted to regain control of a situation that had started spinning out of control. We agreed on so much. We agreed to pretend it had never happened.
“This period might have begun with you having a great deal of security — thinking that you knew what was going on, what was about to happen,” The Astrologer said. “Then lo and behold, your whole world got shaken, making one of your greatest fears come true. ‘Oh my God, I was blind. Oh my God, I got hoodwinked. Oh my God, I pulled the wool over my eyes’ … Which is one of your worst fears, if not the worst fear. It’s very humiliating for you.”
Pedophiles, I firmly believe, do not enter the priesthood with the goal of gaining access to young boys. Quite the opposite. Yes, they’re drawn to the purity, as well as the reassurance of the familiar, the regular structure of the day. But they also come to this life because they want to get better. They want to be better, purer than they are, holier than they are. Fortresses. It is so striking that the most incurable criminal disorder afflicts a disproportionate number of men of the cloth. Something beyond the allure of altar boys brought these men to their place. It is the promise of sanctity, the protection of sanctity. To live with the angels is to assume their ways — no? Just as laughing when you’re sad can make you feel better.
I wonder now whether I was attracted to that particular cosmopolitan expression of Judaism precisely because it was what I aspired to yet was most incapable of.
My husband told me that I set standards for myself that I didn’t live up to. I wanted to be good, moral, generous, diligent, loving, sensitive, loyal, dependable, reassuring, ambitious, successful, healthy, innovative, vibrant. I wanted to make a family, be a good daughter, a good friend, a good writer, a good provider. I wanted to find peace and stability in family life because my own family had been emotional mayhem. I wanted to be happily married. My standards were high; I wanted to walk with the angels.
But I had an affair. I ended my marriage. Dashed my own hopes (pulled the wool over my own eyes). I’m not an angel, and it wasn’t a strategy — or a religion for that matter — that failed me. It was something in me, a disconnect between me and my dreams, some misunderstanding about what was right, about how to be good, a basic misunderstanding. But once upon a time, before I admitted the flaws into my life, I thought religion might save me from them.
“Every revolutionary,” wrote the theologian Henri Nouwen, “is challenged to be a mystic at heart and he who walks the mystical way is called to unmask the illusory quality of human society.”
I read a lot of Nouwen while I was researching my book. He was the go-to guy for pastoral theology in the 1970s. His concerns are so dated now: he worried about Nuclear Man, the “threat of New Technologies,” and hippies. But he was a great pastor and writer because of the resonant clarity with which he explained that ministering to people in need was ultimately about understanding what comfort was and where strength lies. I keep coming back to the idea that there’s something fundamentally revolutionary in compassion.
I called Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley to ask if my mother and I could come to their High Holiday services. Apologizing for the last-minute call, I explained to the woman who answered the phone at the synagogue that my mother was very ill, critically ill, and that I had traveled from out of town to take care of her.
“Are you members?” she asked.
We were members, I told her, twenty-three years ago; my sister and I had our Bat Mitzvahs there. I didn’t elaborate on how disappointing it had all been for us. How forbiddingly clubby my mother had found the wealthy community, particularly unwelcoming to a recent divorcée and not especially well-equipped to serve single parents. I made a flimsy, obtuse reference to how we were grown up now and didn’t live nearby.
“But you’re not currently members,” she clarified and then told me that the services were open only to members.
Granted, most synagogues have this policy for the High Holidays. I asked if we could buy tickets.
“Could an exception be made? It’s quite urgent,” I asked miserably, frustrated with my inability to be direct. I wanted to say that it would be my mother’s last Yom Kippur. Instead, I added, “It’s very important to us.”
She suggested that I try Hillel at one of the nearby colleges. “They often have community services.” I had never in my life heard community pronounced as if the word itself were filthy. I didn’t know how to explain that we weren’t looking for an adventure, that my mother’s deteriorating body couldn’t possibly bear a folding chair in a drafty function room, or a twenty-minute drive. I didn’t argue that nine months pregnant and on twenty-four-hour call to my sick mother, I didn’t have the energy to take us somewhere that would require the use of a map, that we were both scared, already ravaged, and needed to be at least somewhere familiar if not friendly. That I couldn’t possibly spend the afternoon on the phone tracking down Kol Nidre.
“Do you have children?” she suddenly blurted out. The loophole. The open-house policy of all thriving synagogues: young families shopping around for Hebrew school.
“I’m pregnant,” I offered. “So there’s children on the way.”
“But you don’t have any now.”
“Yup,” she concluded, “I can’t help you.”
Suddenly, unexpectedly overcome with anger, I hissed at her, “Well, I’ll just have to find us a real Jewish community then, won’t I?” I hung up as loudly as I could.
When I asked my father what was so great about the Episcopal Church his answer was that he felt welcome there when he needed it most: isolated, confused, often drunk, and shattered by guilt after the divorce. His church was “a big umbrella.” In no small sense the fellow members of his church rescued him by sitting next to him, adding his name to the telephone trees, and arguing local politics with him at picnic potlucks.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard so many people say some version of: “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in organized religion.” It makes sense; we are a country of individualists, people who don’t relish the idea of being herded. Independence aside, though, I’m not sure I understand the point of a one-man religious experience. We are ultimately utterly alone. It’s as much a curse as a gift. But we’re not prophets, and we don’t have to take to the desert. We build communities to take shelter in them: churches, reading groups, support groups, labor unions, mothers for world peace. I don’t think I fully comprehended the significance of my father’s answer until I found myself out in the darkness, casting about for refuge.
My community on Yom Kippur was my mother and me, alone in that chilly shell of a home — her choking down half a teacup of broth and a spoonful of Percocet in yogurt and me standing over the kitchen sink wolfing down a rubbery slab of leftover mozzarella marinara. In our conditions, neither of us was required to fast, and yet neither of us had the stomach for food. Atonement is just hunger. Remembering the dead — there was nothing to remember; we were in it, sitting together in her dimmed bedroom, the dead all around us, our shadows, their echoes, my dying mother, my unborn son, this twilight space between life and death.
“Pluto,” continued The Astrologer, “is very intense. Pluto wants to end your life as you have known it, and he doesn’t care about whatever your expectations and desires were for yourself. Your life just doesn’t mean that much to him. He’s going to come along and blow away your dreams. Pluto isn’t very nice to humans … and all of this might be very discombobulating. This is all an experiment now, a passage, an improvisation. You have to go with it, see where it takes you. You don’t really have a choice. Because, if you’re trying to follow the old road, the one you were on, well, it’s gone. There’s no more road.”
Late one night in Italy, as we were trying to navigate a snowy mountain pass and slipping and sliding and whooping with delight each time the heavy old unheated sedan made it over another crest, my husband — long before he was my husband — said to me: “You know, if we ever get divorced, we’ll just have to get back together again. That’s just the way it is.”
God, did that make me feel loved as I never had been.
I repeated the story to my mother one day while we were talking about family, and true to her solipsistic character, she replied, “Your father never said anything like that to me.”
He didn’t really love her, she said. He was too young, and she knew it. She knew that their age difference would be a problem. She didn’t think he knew what love was. She didn’t think he really loved her.
But he talked her into it, and she said she was convinced, “because he was a religious man … once.” She didn’t know what it was like to be religious like him, and she was seduced by the exoticism of it, the promises hidden beneath the layers of this mysterious creed. He grew up Catholic, he’d been to seminary, he went to church on Sundays. He believed in something bigger, he believed in family, and he understood the meaning of vows. He broke them. He strayed. He had a long dark night of the soul, which in Christianity is often considered a rite of passage. So, was it religion or my father who’d misled her?
She had seen (as I had, as my husband once had) religion as a cloak of protection. What did any of us know? She was a musician, we were writers; we invented stuff. We attributed tremendous creative and sustaining power to the expression of faith. We were vulnerable to religion’s promises because we weren’t really stuck with it — its failings, inconsistencies, equivocations. When it came to planning a marriage, I think we all put a great deal of stock in the religious system. So we held a Jewish wedding and signed a ketubbah, a beautiful hand-lettered contract.
One day when I was feeling brave, I decided to do some research about Jewish divorce — an ancient provision, put into place mostly to protect people from being stuck with a barren partner. I read that we’d have to sign a get, another contract, in order to be officially divorced under Jewish law. One of the special caveats of a Jewish divorce is that you are expressly forbidden from remarrying.
Despite everything that’s happened since, and how very far we both are from that snowy mountainside, I thought to myself when I read that, “Thank God I don’t believe in that bullshit anymore.” I know there’s no more of the old road, but it was there once, and I was on it, and it is a part of me. I don’t have any interest in letting the Jews and their laws or Pluto with his destructive hacksaw strip me of my dreams, even the old ones.
“It’s a good time to trust your faith,” said The Astrologer, “because there’s nothing much in the real world you can rely on. If faith doesn’t work, go see art, look at things that are bigger than yourself and your universe.”
I wasn’t brought up religious, and neither was my mother — or her parents before her. That side of my family is historically made up of socialists, freethinkers, and artists. There’s significantly more Jewish pride in my blood than prayer. My mother lost her mother when she was thirteen and turned to music for solace — that’s the religion she brought my sister and I up in. We flirted with ritual over the years (especially in dark times), but our collective impressions of it kept falling somewhere between hopeful and suspicious. Our household was an artistic one; I’ve spent far more Sundays in museums than Friday nights in temple, including this last, recent incursion into Judaism. Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 is irreducible in a way that Genesis isn’t — or so it seems to me.
My mother spent fifteen years not dying, and on that point she was unwavering to the end. In order to take care of her during the last few months of her life, my sister and I had to expend enormous energy agreeing with her that she wasn’t dying. We shrank our worlds in order to be with her in the way she wanted. We stood in for the home health aides she kept firing because she wasn’t dying, we nursed her, tended to the minutiae of her terrible exigencies, deflected the visitors and callers whose valedictory wishes smacked of resignation and betrayal.
“She’s been going on fumes for three weeks already,” the hospice nurse told us.
“She’s in denial,” said the social worker. “You have to help her accept this.”
“I can only think in black and white,” she said one afternoon. And then later that same night, grabbed her best friend’s wrist fiercely and said, “Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. I’m going to get better.”
About a year and a half earlier, my mother had approached my rabbi while on a visit to New York, shyly asking if he would talk to her about a Jewish burial. It was the closest she’d ever come to planning, even admitting, mortality — aside from the promise we had made to her long ago that we would bury her with her down comforter so that she would be warm. It was also an awkward overture to Judaism that she felt comfortable making with me by her side — emboldened, I presume, by my inflated sense of security. For some reason the meeting ended up being too difficult to schedule, and the conversation never took place. Before the year was out, she’d become too sick to travel anymore.
Although she never did learn very much about it, my mother was definitive that she wanted a Jewish burial. She wrote that much into her will, but didn’t elaborate, tiring easily of the subject. When the hospice rabbi came around for a visit, she summoned the energy to ask again what Jewish burial entailed, but then instantly lost interest. When the rabbi said, “What would you like to know?” my mother just shrugged. I think she wanted the hospice rabbi to tell her that it would be easier to die a Jew. But she was as Jewish as she ever would be, and she already knew without asking that nothing was big enough to make it easier.
I believe she wanted to be taken care of, honored, buried quickly, cleaned, blessed, wrapped in white, deep in sacred ground, an ancient prayer, one repeated across the world: Yit gadal, v’yit kaddash ... The Jewish communion of the dead — that strange, massive, and ageless pantheon of our dead.
A Jewish burial has to happen quickly: properly, within a day or two. My mother slipped into a coma on Thanksgiving and died late the next night. The funeral home assured us that we had some leeway with the ritual, as it was the Sabbath and we were so totally unprepared. As long as she was being tended to, prayed over, and in the freezer.
Getting into a Jewish cemetery as an unaffiliated Jew turned out to be as difficult as getting into the High Holidays at a tony suburban synagogue. My sister’s inquiries at her local Reform cemetery — an elegant parcel of protected, park-like land in Western Massachusetts — proved quickly futile when we realized that it would take days on end to convene the temple board to petition them for an exception to the members-only rule.
The hospice rabbi had suggested the Baker Street Cemetery, vividly describing how the cemetery’s sections were divided into synagogues, and unions, and Old World towns — there was even a Workmen’s Circle section (my great-grandmother had dedicated her life to the Workmen’s Circle). The map of the grounds was like an Isaac Babel story. To be buried there in Yiddish with those distant comrades would be like coming home for my mother.
And so, the day after Thanksgiving, my sister and I bundled my baby and ourselves up as warmly as we could and set out for West Roxbury. Our high hopes were quickly dashed. The cemetery wasn’t far enough off Route 128 — a row of trees separated it from an auto dealership and a grotty shopping strip beyond that. It was a forbiddingly tidy and arid place, especially on that very gray, subzero afternoon. When I dutifully called the director of the graveyard to find out if there was even a possibility of putting our mother there, he gamely replied that we’d probably have to join the Workmen’s Circle and make a plea for special dispensation to be placed in that section. I barely listened to his by now somewhat predictable response. We already knew that we hated it there, and it had nothing to do with anything beyond the fact that my mother would have hated it, too. It was ugly.
The cemetery where we ended up, a beautiful historical forested hill right out of Amherst Center, was perfect — not at all what we thought we were looking for, and not Jewish, though there are Jews buried there — the renegades and atheists. Wildwood Cemetery hosts an eclectic crowd of locals, professors, and artists. A large statue of a bucking horse marks the grave right next to our mother’s resting place up on a wooded hill, the perfect vantage point from which to watch a winter sunset. Behind my mother’s plot, there is a swath of elaborate benches marking graves from the last hundred years, each lovingly and haphazardly arranged among the trees. Quirky affairs, like my mother: one bright white marble bench, guarded by leonine gargoyles and looking like something Salvador Dali might have painted into the scenery, bears the admonition Watch It.
Meanwhile, I was on the phone with the funeral directors, trying to negotiate the hiring of a rabbi for the funeral. No slight matter, as it seems that especially on a Saturday morning over the Thanksgiving weekend, any rabbi worth his salt is either unreachable or unavailable. The funeral director finally ended our search for the perfect rabbi on short notice with the suggestion, “Look, I’ve got someone who can surely do the service for you; he’s a local cantor who’s always up for anything.”
I wanted a rabbi worthy of my mother — someone who wouldn’t patronize her, or us, by pretending to know us. Someone who could honor her with the simple ancient ritual that she had wanted. I wanted someone unique and brilliant, not freelance. I was ever so mercifully wrong.
Cantor Morton Shames called the next afternoon to talk about the service. When I told him that my mother was a complicated woman and that it was very important to us that he not pretend he knew her, he gently replied that he understood. For well over an hour, I tried to explain my mother to him, as if it were the most important portrait I would ever paint, miserably trying to sift the most salient details from seventy-two years of life. My sister and I, independently rambling on over the phone to this unfamiliar craggy voice, both ended up describing my mother as an aesthete — so thoroughly consumed with the pursuit of beauty that often her feet didn’t touch the ground. This held true as much for the music she wrote as for the way she arranged flowerpots in the corner of a room, as for the intent way she listened to a friend. Cantor Shames interjected with quiet exclamations — “How wonderful!” “I wish I could have met her.”
The funeral was not Jewish in the strictest sense, but of course, neither was my mother. It was, however, the funeral she was meant to have.
As he stood by her plot on that cold, wet morning, flipping through a thick stack of index cards upon which he’d meticulously composed his sermon in pencil, it became utterly clear that no one but Cantor Shames could have honored our mother better. He understood her, through us, and what she meant to us, and that mattered. More than that, he seemed to have received, through means I’ll never understand, a profound appreciation of her music. His voice, a bold, weeping tenor, cracking under the weight of the mourner’s prayers, lifted to the sky. He blew the music up there and then carried her, too, up past the treetops, and he took her away. She was really gone.
I am a Jewish mother now, as my mother was before me, and her mother before her — Jewish, not quite Jewish. Another generation in the family that never really has found company in the house of the Lord. We’re park dwellers: instinctual, undisciplined, two degrees isolated from the world we live in.
My mother was clingy, indulgent, petulant, and maudlin. Her love was demanding, sometimes contractual, almost unbearably consuming. Throughout the fifteen years she spent fighting cancer, it was consistently impossible to get a straight report from her about her health; we’d have to rely on the most eccentric coterie of intermediaries for news. The good patches were fairy tales; the scary patches were a secret. When she’d get sick, my sister and I would come running to her side. Every time, whatever she needed. We were a small family. The three of us made it up as we went along. My mother taught me everything: to fight, to survive, to love for dear life. And everything that she taught me, my son has let me feel.
Isaac was named for laughter — that’s his burden. When God told Sarah that she was to be a mother at 101 years old, she fell to the ground laughing, hilarious with disbelief. I wasn’t supposed to be a mother this way either: too late, in the midst of a betrayal, a collapse, a long, painful death, the disintegration of my plans, ideas, dreams, this crucible of destruction. I wasn’t supposed to be a mother like this. But Isaac was meant to be.
The moment of revelation is absurdly clear in my memory: I was sitting on the edge of the tub, washing clothes in a bucket. I adjusted the hot water and let it run over my hands, thinking that the only thing I knew was that I had to have my baby. I can’t have been more than three months pregnant, and I was so profoundly confused about every single thing going on in my life that the sudden feeling of conviction was startling. My son was never a choice. Stopping the pregnancy was never an option, and how I felt about the baby was already more than how I’d ever felt about anything. It was love or truth, an absolute belief in the invisible. It was religion. Now I understand.
I underestimated faith. I looked for it in the wrong places, such mundane places — I looked for it in books, in rituals, in gatherings of people. But that’s religion for people who have it. I hit the limits of that kind of faith the moment I strayed from the plan. It was all there; then it was dust.
The Astrologer says I’m not out of the woods; there won’t be any order in my particular configuration of stars for some time to come. Pluto, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all still lording over me, fighting for dominance. In my own gimpy, flailing way, I’ve been answering to all of them, and none. My son was born three weeks before my mother died. Time enough for her to see him alive; time for her to realize that seeing him wasn’t enough; time enough for her to forget him and forget the sadness of losing him to the future; and time for me to watch my mother and my son exchange places. For three weeks, these two helpless, overwhelmed creatures had the same desperate faraway look in their eyes. They spent three weeks watching each other — time enough for eternity. &