Under The Canopy

By Tom Gale a new LGBTQ+ writer

The latest rewrite of my Elevator Pitch for my forthcoming memoir I use this sentence ‘Finding inner strength to get away from home only to face more trials and tribulations from the Mormons, HM Armed Forces, psychiatry, extreme and perhaps unethical experiments.’ It was from studying the Bible in Seminar in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka The Mormons) around eighteen years of age and in studying the first book Genesis specifically in the first chapter recounts how ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth.’ (Gen 1: 1) in the next 4 chapters is an account of the void being given form, and the creation of light. We weren’t a large group just over half a dozen really but we produced sufficient discussion of those five verses alone lasting two, two and a half hour seminars investigating the symbolism and mythology that is inferred in those opening verses. There are just under one hundred words used. Then in verse six we read ‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.‘ The Hebrew word ‘raqiya’ translates as ‘firmament’ and alternatively translated as ‘expanse’ refers in this instance to what we now call the atmosphere. In verse 20 there is reference to birds flying in the firmament. Before that in verses 14-17 the firmament is spoken of as a place where the sun, moon and stars reside. It is used no more than nine times in that first chapter. Referred to as ‘The Canopy Theory’ According to the account in Genesis, before there was land or air or life of any kind there was a formless mass of primordial water and on the second day of creation God created the ‘raqiya’ in the midst of the water separating it in two parts. The waters above the firmament and the those below. Suggesting there was a canopy of water above the atmosphere and it is the later ‘release’ of this water that caused the Earth to be completely submerged in the account of Noah later in the book of Genesis. The mythology of Noah is also written of in the Quran and Baha’i writings.

It was interesting that whilst it was widely regarded that Genesis is not to be taken literally. Rather the writing of various myths and legends except some scholars took an exception to calculate that it took about five-and-a-half weeks of constant rain. If a canopy consisting that much water vapour had collapsed, the result would have been to ‘cook’ the planet. That’s not to say that there was no canopy or that it didn’t collapse. Only that if it did, it couldn’t have produced that amount of rain. (the less water, the less heat). Advocates of ‘The Canopy Theory’ suggest that it could have been a possible cause of pre-flood anomalies, such as longevity of life. The Genesis account tells us the Noah was five hundred years old before his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth were born.

Whatever the case may be the only thing we know for certain is that if there was a canopy there isn’t now. It is speculation as there just isn’t enough evidence to say for sure apart from those few words in that sixth verse.

This kind of in depth examination of the Bible gave me a knowledge and understanding that many other members of the Church had not. Which set me apart. For most members of the Church the fact that the ‘manual’ for the Seminar was over two inches thick was enough to put them off. I couldn’t get enough. So much so that when the tutor was stricken with poor health and unable to continue to teach, the powers that be ‘chose’ me to be the tutor. I would have been around twenty at that time. It was also what enabled me to later befriend the ‘pastor’ in the Army.

The idea that there may once have been a canopy over the Earth is a lasting interesting thought. A canopy that could have been a protection and instrumental in there being a very different life from what we have today.

To come full circle two months ago (Sat 5th Feb 2022) I travelled to Manchester to go to my much missed club Aftershock with as many of my friends as could manage. I went on my own as my partner had business obligations he couldn’t get out of. Turns out that none of my friends were able to join me. For most people that would probably be a complete wipeout. I’m no stranger to going out alone. I did if for years when I first arrived in Salford in 2006.

I had a supply of ‘party liveners’ and had the best night clubbing that I’d had in years. Due to my ‘synesthesia’ going clubbing is an amazing experience for me. There is a synergy that occurs between me, the music and those dancing that sometimes borders on the ‘spiritual’. The club had invested in some new lighting.

I had been enjoying the atmosphere and really connecting with the music for a couple of hours and I was feeling rejuvenated and euphoric. I looked upwards and the ceiling was ablaze with a neon blue matrix of light. Yet the more I looked they morphed into something resembling fine lace covering over half the dancefloor as a beautiful, magical canopy appeared to bless us in that moment. The track playing at the time was Keep On Rising by Ian Carey. Featuring Michelle Shellers. (Manyfew and Joe Stone remix)

Down in the depths of my soul

Feeling the loss of control

In its spirit so colourful

If you feel it then let’s go

To a place where you belong

Give it strength to carry on

Open your heart

Set your mind at ease

Live your life and you’ll be free

We’re gonna rise, rise, rise

Keep on rising

Rise, rise, rise

Uhmmm, uhmmm

In that moment there were two feelings that came so powerfully to me. Only I could see that canopy and it symbolised to me that being under it would protect me. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. Also that the time had come for me to move back to the city I love. Birmingham had provided a fortress for us and protected us against the virus and the madness of the world.

In an apartment that was large enough for me to have my own private dancefloor and for the well beloved and I not to have killed one another, nor have the police visit our door. So for that I will be eternally grateful.

This past week as the well beloved took his staff off to sunny climes for some R&R I spent the time packing up the apartment for the move out at the end of the month. I managed to fill twenty boxes so far with only the kitchen and utility room to pack. Each box packed brought an increased lightness of being. Despite it being backbreaking work (for one) I was giving thanks for time we’ve been here.

Salford, I’m coming back! I can’t wait.

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