Driving down the road to Mass at 5:30 this morning, I was thinking about how the road is a different place in the light than it is in the dark. In the daytime, a good part of the road runs through fields and it feels wide and open; in the early morning darkness, it's an intimate little circle of light in the middle of a mystery. As I was engaged in all these lofty thoughts, there began to seep into my awareness the lovely, ineffable fragrance of a dead skunk. Actually, it might have still been alive. It was too dark to see if there was a corpse. There's nothing like that funky, musty signature perfume to bring you down to earth.
A bit later I was thinking about how this odiferous experience reminds me of what you might call the adolescence of my spiritual journey. I was about 30, I think, and I was wonderful. I was so holy. I was holier than you, I'm sure. And after I had been roaming around the earth seeking to do what damage I might, one day I noticed a kind of funny smell. I would have liked to have ignored it, but, you know, that skunky aroma tends to stick around for a while.
After that, I spent some years in what I think of as my Robbie Burns period, you know, O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. I actually prayed that one time. It was an answered prayer and it was truly dreadful, but salutory. It would probably make a good examination of conscience now and then.
Over the years, I thought that as I grew older the skunkish visitations would grow fewer and further apart. Well, that was a sad misconception. It seems that they have multiplied exponentially, but I think I might just have a more finely-tuned skunk sensitivity. More than likely, this is good. Sometimes I actually am able to avoid them. I hear something scraping, scrabbling, and scrooging around the metaphysical corners of my mind and I back quietly away before the worst happens.