Those angels, you know, they are crafty buggers. Appearing in all sorts of disguise. A couple I met assumed the look of priests. One here on the Island showed up as an electrician on a job in Vineyard Haven. One came as an old guy disguised as a carpenter in Edgartown, but it was confirmed later by another one disguised as a Rabbi that the old carpenter was actually God.

A long time ago when I was living in a shack on the Connecticut River, one showed up on the streets of Amherst and actually stayed around awhile, disguised as a homeless, crazy drifter. Eventually he ended up living with us in the shack; we were an eclectic bunch.

One time I asked him: “Richard, if there was one thing you wanted me to know, what would it be?” He paused a bit and replied: “Well, basically . . . love is death at any moment.” It took me a while to fully grasp what he meant, when finally I realized he was saying that love has no quantity. You can’t love a lot or a little, and in regards to loving people, their presence isn’t necessary.

I had a spate of angel meetings on the Island about four years ago. For awhile I had been practicing a manifestation technique I had learned from a book titled The Rosicrucian Guide to Home and Business. The Rosicrucians are a little-known Christian mystic sect, but the book was straightforward, written in the 1920s. Along with practical guidelines on how to get a job, at one point it offers a technique for manifesting things in life, a concept which has been made popular these days in the movie The Secret.

The technique (not mentioned in the movie, which makes me think it is the secret) is to cross the index and middle fingers of each hand a couple times a day for five minutes while concentrating on the thing, or condition that you wish to manifest. I tried it years ago when I was bidding a shingling job. When I submitted the bid, I said to the contractor: “Hope I get it.” He replied: “Keep your fingers crossed.”

I got the job. I have continued the practice and I think it may have had something do with the rash of angelic encounters. I changed the technique a bit and crossed my fingers while praying. Coming from a Catholic background, I was brought up praying the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and have done so since then. I like the themes. Daily bread, forgiveness, not being led to temptation, etc.

It was around Easter. I had a few jobs going on: one in West Chop, one in Edgartown and one in Tisbury. I had lost my licence so I was getting around mostly by hitchhiking. While on the Edgartown job, I was sitting under a tree praying. At one point I said aloud that I was sorry if I had ever hurt anyone; I went straight to the top and asked God for forgiveness. Then I got back up on the roof and started banging on shingles. I was getting ready to cap the roof and discovered that I had run out of blue chalk for my chalk line. I decided to go into town to buy some chalk. On my way I saw an old timer working on a house, and as is my way I said hello and exchanged pleasantries.

I got to town and discovered that there was no longer a hardware store there. I headed back to the job and thought maybe the old guy might have some blue chalk. When I got to the house where he was, I went to find him and asked him if he had some chalk that I could use. He was gracious and said he probably did and that we should go to his truck to find out. When we got to the truck we started riffing on life and spirituality. When I was on the roof I was thinking about thoughts and flow and how often our thoughts get in the way like a stone in a river. I told him about that. He liked the concept and we sort of bantered back and forth with a number of spiritual concepts. I told him that one of my favorite concepts was “now is the only now we will ever have.” And that when people asked me how old I was, I answered “now.”

He agreed. I asked him if he had a family, and he told me he had had a son but he had passed. I asked his name and he said it was David Root, like the tree. He added: “I used to be like you, traveling around. But then I decided to settle down.” When it came time to part company and I made the comment about being in the now, he said: “Now you have the hang of it, just don’t hang onto it.”

So I went on my way. Later when my girlfriend showed up I told her about the old guy and she mentioned to me that it was Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified. “I had a son, but he passed.” The words rang through my head.

I have a long tradition of working on Easter. It comes from when Jesus asked the pharisees which one of them would not rescue their donkey from a ditch on the Sabbath. The meaning behind it for me was that every day is Sabbath. So that Easter Sunday, I woke up and decided to go to West Chop to cap another roof I was working on. Before I left, I called my shingling partner, whose wife was Jewish, to find out what the Jewish holiday that was coincident with Easter was about. I think it was Passover. He told me he didn’t know and that his wife wasn’t around. On my way down to the main road I crossed my fingers and decided that I wanted to manifest a ride to my job on West Chop. Being in Chilmark, this was a bit of a challenge. I got to Beetlebung Corner and started to walk down-Island when a friend pulled over. “Hey man, where you headed?” he said. “I’m trying to get to West Chop,” I told him. “Hop in, I’ll get you there,” he said.

I got to the job, worked until close to sunset and decided to go home. I walked to town and when I got to State Road decided I needed to manifest a ride. No sooner than I had the thought, a car pulled up. I got in, introduced myself and asked the driver what he did on the Island. “I’m a rabbi,” he told me. “That’s great,” I told him and posed my question about the Jewish holiday. He said: “Well, it’s about the time when Moses led the people to the sea and when they got there the people got pissed off at Moses and Moses got pissed off at God because they couldn’t cross the sea. Just then a man came out of the crowd and walked into the sea. When the water covered all his orifices the sea parted. It was the guy’s true faith that parted the waters.”

Then I told him of meeting the old carpenter.

As an aside I said, “You know who I think he was?” Without missing a beat, he said: “It was God.”

I had wondered about that and thought it may have been an angel, but when the wandering rabbi told me this, all I could do was laugh. It also made me wonder about the rabbi. It turned out that he gave me a ride to just where I needed to go.

The next day I went to work in Tisbury. It turned out there was an electrician that I had never met. We spent a few hours kind of scoping each other out. I had the thought that I should ask him what his spiritual discipline was. Not the usual question on a construction job. So I went to him and introduced myself. He said: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I said, “Sure, go for it.” And he said: “What’s your spiritual discipline?”

Those angels, they are crafty buggers.

Joe Keenan is a musician, writer, baker and shingler living in West Tisbury.