The Gargoyle

GargoyleA gargoyle looks down menacingly from its perch on the top of my book shelves.  It’s easy to notice in the little 11.5 by 10 feet room.

My office was larger when it lived in a church building. In those days it had room for my 2000 book library and an area large enough for a small meeting. But now my office will hold only 1000 books, a desk, and a small couch.

But that’s enough.

A friend of mine once came into my Lodi office and asked, “Why do you have those evil-looking things in your office,” gesturing toward the ever-vigilant gargoyles.  I explained that gargoyles used to be ornaments on ancient church buildings, meant to both act as a rain gutter to direct water away from the church’s walls and also to frighten away evil spirits.  But that didn’t comfort her much.

Since my office doesn’t have any evil spirits in it, I think my gargoyles must be doing their job.

My office is now a kind of personal museum where I keep plaques and mementos from over 40 years of work as a pastor. Over my couch is a framed print by a Russian painter named Shvaiko, ironically of a Parisian restaurant. My wife and I love Paris, so this picture has sentimental aspects to it.

Over my desk, to the right of the door, hangs a plaque that has graced my wall for years. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” This Oliver Wendell Holmes quote has been a personal mission statement of mine since the ‘80s. I like to think of what I do as mind-stretching.

In the corner farthest away from the door is my Kiwanis collection – a plaque with a small gavel on it commemorates my year as president of our Lodi club, the Hixon Award hanging next to it was a honor I received from my club, and I got the clear Plexiglas star, in the book shelves, after a year of serving as secretary.

Books stand, some in Dewey Decimal order; others lay carelessly on their sides. The books and I have a long and interesting relationship. They feel more like children or friends than inanimate objects. Objets d’art are scattered around the shelves: the small, flat model of the mission at San Juan Bautista, the cup my wife gave me that says ‘Whatever,’ a carved wooden monk reading a book, and the gargoyles of course.

From my desk chair I can see the framed carabiner on my wall, a reminder of the 6-day retreat our American Leadership Forum cohort took in the Sierra in 2015. My wife smiles back at me from her picture, and a plaque commemorates my year as chairman of the Board for the Chamber of Commerce. That year was at the dark pit of the 2008 national recession and the worst year anyone could have with an organization such as the Chamber.

St. Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, is en-statued on my desk. So also St. Frances of Assisi, patron saint of animals. They were gifts from my daughter-in-law, and I just like them standing on my desk surveying my little fiefdom.

The closet really needs a door on it. It looks like a concussion grenade went off inside it. Notebooks, file cabinets, equipment, supplies, and other important “stuff” is stored here in unrecognizable order. I wish my gargoyles were able to organize the mess.

I like my little office as much as for the memories as for the library it contains.