Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bumping into Mary

“Don’t,” said Lady, “don’t start. I know I’m not here, and I’m starting to get seriously bugged about that. So you’re going to have to get along without me today. Anyway, you’ve gotten seriously weird about this van Hoof person, and don’t I have enough trouble with my poets? You might as well herd cats….”

“It’s hardly my fault,” I told her, “since you know I’m a sucker for Marian apparitions. And somebody has to do something with Mary Ann van Hoof. Her bishops completely failed her, which is a shame, since look what they just did with Sister Adele? I say it with pride--the only time that the Virgin Mary ever set foot in the good old US of A was right there in my home state. True, that was in 1859, and I’ve never even been to Champion, Wisconsin, but it still, it makes one proud. More to the state than cheddar cheese and toilets, I can tell you that.”

“It’s starting,” sighed Lady, “I always tell myself that I’ll smile pleasantly, if distantly, and glide right past. And then you tell me about about cheddar cheese--which I know about--and then toilets….”

“Kohler, Wisconsin,” I told her, “purveyors of fine thrones, some of which you undoubtedly have warmed. Unlike the toilet here in the Poet’s Passage--a Crane. Distinctly inferior, and it’s never performed satisfactorily. Well, well--the cheap leaves dear, as we say.”

Lady gets distracted, until I see her form the words,  lo barato….

“Lovely,” said Lady, “and should I ever win the lottery, you can be sure the first thing I’ll buy…”

“Excellent,” I said, since that’s the only way to deal with sarcasm. “Wonderful that the company is still plugging along. After all, look at the Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue! Closed in 2000, after a mere eight years in existence. Whose life wasn’t improved with exhibits like this?”


“Should we perhaps return to Marian apparitions?” asked Lady. “Not that I much want to, but if the alternative is bathroom tissue, AKA toilet paper, well, the Virgin Mary has a strong lead….”

“You are wanting in the ways of Wisconsin,” I tell her, since as a poet, of course she will appreciate alliteration. “Well, it’s all official, since Bishop David Ricken of the Green Bay diocese put the episcopal stamp of approval on the whole business in 2010. I missed it at the time, since I was cozening the dying, or getting ready to do so…”

“But wasn’t Adele whoever she was seeing the Virgin in the 1800’s?”

“1859,” I told her. “Yes, and it took a two-year investigation to get to the bottom of it all. But yes, here’s the dope…”

On Wednesday, December 8, which is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Most Reverend David Rickin, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, decreed with "moral certainty" that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and approved these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.

“Not obligatory,” cried Lady, “the Virgin takes all the trouble to run up to a small town in Wisconsin, and then it takes 150 years to officiate her, or recognize her, or whatever it is? And now, after all that time and trouble, it’s a theological flip of the coin to believe in her or not? Well, screw that! I’d be scraping my knees in devotion, if I were a Catholic….”

“An interesting point,” I said, “and did you know that there are only 11 approved sites, as well as Our Lady of Good Help, up there in Champion, Wisconsin? One does begin to wonder--why doesn’t the Virgin appear to Methodists, or even Unitarians? Or maybe she does, and nobody recognizes here. Perhaps they think she’s there to do up the flowers on the altar. Though it does make you think….”

“But didn’t this van Hoof person see the Virgin as well? You know, the one that you’re so stuck on….”

“Mary Ann van Hoof,” I told her. “Odd--as the alcoholism fades away (we say this hopefully), Mary Ann’s star just gets brighter. I’m already through volume one of Henry H. Swan’s momentous epic, My Work with Necedah. And since it only goes from 1950 to 1955, there’s quite a bit of gold left to be mined. We haven’t even gotten to the spaceship manned by “Alex,” or whoever it was….”

“Dear me,” murmured Lady bloggily, since she would never say it in real life. “The goings-on in Necedah. Spaceships and virgins! Hadn’t the motion pictures penetrated up there, by mid-century?”

“Presumably so,” I told her. “Though my father once told me that Necedah, and all of the ‘sand county’ up there, is just one of those intrinsically bad places. The mob, back in the days of Al Capone, used to run up from Chicago to get rid of their corpses in Necedah and Juneau County. It was a place that attracted evil, and if it didn’t attract it, it created it. Strange that they would have put the whooping cranes up there…”

“The same cranes that are on our excellent toilets?”

“What a curiously digressive mind you have,” I told her. “Especially when you could be focussed on essentials. Mary Ann van Hoof, and the Virgin. One feels a bit sorry for both of them. Necedah doesn’t seem to have brought them much good, either one of them. Well, the Virgin is still stomping about, though the bishops keep sniffing their noses at her. But Mary Ann van Hoof died in 1984, and is all but forgotten, and she went to her grave just as she sprang into the cradle. Poor as Job’s turkey, according to Father Sheetz!”

“Cranes, toilet paper, Sheetz,” said Lady, trying to make sense of it all. “Well, are you ever going to do it? If anybody is pacing the afterlife, waiting for someone to write a novel about her, it’s Mary Ann van Hoof. And since all you have to do nowadays is not drink, well, you might just as well write the story of van Hoof and the Virgin. Then we can all have a book presentation, and drink champagne to your success. Sorry, none for you….”

“I might as well,” I told her. “Anyway, writing about the Virgin and the van Hoof is probably a thousand times better than being her, and seeing her. Did I ever tell you about the tarantula that lived in our bathroom?”

“Forget it,” said Lady, at last squishing the digressions under her firm, poetic foot. “And no, you can’t drift off into a discourse on poetic foots, or feet. Get to work! I paint houses, you write the story of la Hoof! Let’s see if you can get it done before the bishops finally get around to giving their OK to the visitations. Let’s see, that’ll be in the year 2160….”

Ah! Just time enough!