Easter Sunday in Zadar is running in the rain—sound of water on water as it hits the Adriatic. Sound of church bell after church bell clanging at odd intervals for minutes at a time. The sea organ slowed to a moaning hush.
The night before, my brother and I in our hotel room, lying flat and winding down after the day, when we start to hear faint singing. I get up, push back the curtain, open the window to the night—the sound heightens. Below is a procession moving slowly, filling up the narrow street. Led by priests, interspersed by nuns, but mostly ordinary people, singing hymns to the Lord.
I hold my breath. I watch them pass, feel the hum of their voices reverberate off road and walls and into my sternum. I want to catch this moment like a firefly and put it in a jar, keep it by my bedside, let it light my dreams. A man looks up and sees me staring. I back away, let the curtain fall. But I keep watching through the scrim until they’re gone.
The next morning, I’m nearly the only one out, except for a few dog walkers and an old lady who smiles at my brazen, drenched stupidity. Running in the rain. No, I’m not at church. I’m not Catholic, and I don’t speak the language, but that doesn’t keep me from being haunted by the bells. Clang, clang, clang.
Though I know, of course, that Jesus sees me anyway, huffing and puffing by the sea, stubborn and sweating in the storm, and that He died and rose for me just the same as every other sinner. Every other sinner not in church this day, trying not to slip on sopping cobblestone, or yes, in fact, sitting in a St. Somebody’s cathedral, singing a hallelujah in a language I don’t know.
I think of the procession, their voices ringing through me just the same as the sea organ. The waves rush inside the pipes and out comes music. Just like that. We return again and again because I want to listen to how it changes with the weather. But every time, I swear, I still hear Sara Bareilles singing in my head, “It’s taken all my life to hear the sacred sound / Of sweet simplicity.”
Wind on my face as I run and run, the spray from the waves that come colliding with the rocks. I think about where I am—and what it took to get here—and then I think, maybe, this is it. This is nothing. This is everything. This is rushing against the wind. And the answer to the question, Why did you run so far? is, So I would be forced to run just as far back.