Thursday, April 16, 2009


"Behold, I will renew the face of the earth"

Easter Monday. The day after the Resurrection. THE RESURRECTION! As I drive past a graveyard, decked out with palm crosses, I can't help but think, I am so glad I believe in the resurrection. I don't know how people have the courage to survive without it.

I don't believe it in some kind of vague way either. I know it is true. From my earliest childhood, I have just assumed the reality of the resurrection in exactly the same way as I took sunlight for granted.

Perhaps I should say sunlight streaming through stained glass windows. I used to attend daily mass with my father at about 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. I was very young, somewhere around four or five—before I was old enough to go to school. I remember how peaceful it was, especially on spring mornings after Easter. One of my earliest memories was of a priest who had died, and was being waked at the small chapel where we attended mass. It is only strange to me now that it didn't faze me in the slightest; It wasn't till I was older that I developed a fear and loathing of death and all other things scary.

At the time however, I felt peace and perfect confidence that the old priest was being provided for in death, and it seemed to me to be an "all's right with the world" moment. It never occurred to me that death might be alarming.

Easter Monday. Today I drove down to New Jersey to hear a talk by a married woman who hangs out with an order of Episcopalian Nuns and does embroidery with them. She brought a garbage bag full of old stuff that is used in ecclesiastical needlework. Gold. Silver. Silk. Linen. Precious metals and fibers.

She told us how silk is a hollow fiber, and how it catches the light and reflects it. Why those elaborately embroidered vestments and altarcloths could catch the sunlight outside, and the candlelight inside and play games with it. Sometimes a single element like the 4 inch lamb representing the "Agnus Dei" (shown above) would require the work of three different craftsmen; a wood carver to make the base, a silversmith to make a bas relief of details like the head, and an embroiderer skilled in the use of gold and silver threads to make the body.

She talked about the balance in the lives of the nuns; and how similar their attitude was to some of the Asian needlewomen she had also had the good fortune to stitch with. Stitching was a part of their life, as was gardening and other chores. They stitched for the allotted time every day, then put it away until tomorrow. And tomorrow is always there for them! Many of them live to 90 or 100 years old.

The close contact with nature afforded by the gardening chores gave an exuberance and style to their work that made the designs dance and sing.


Let all the earth cry out to God with Joy!

Later in the afternoon, I took the kids to a nature center for a hike. On the drive home, one of them spotted an animal she was sure was a fox; red-brown with "black feet and black tips on the ears" Figuring it was a longshot, I drove back to see if we could spot it again. We looked and looked, and there, tumbling around the stone wall, was not one but six little foxes.

To be exact, it was one big and five very little pups. The big one ducked back into one of the holes in the stone wall, but the pups continued to tumble and frolic around—in and out of one of the many "doorways" in their house, looking for all the world like dead leaves tumbling in the wind. How appearances can be deceiving! We stayed and watched, turned around to get a better view and watched some more.

(Above: A small wildflower, named Dutchman's Breeches, because it looks like little trousers hanging on a clothesline—another Easter Monday surprise found along a woodland trail.)

How full of joy God's little universe is! I should mention that on the drive to the embroidery lecture earlier that day, we passed by something truly beautiful on the highway. It was iridescent reds and golds, splendor in the morning sunlight. I have never seen anything like it. I believe it was a dead wild turkey, as gorgeous as any peacock but decorated in rich golds instead blues and greens. How can something dead be so beautiful? I don't know, go ask the Redeemer.

But I do know that that dead turkey is as much a sign of hope as anything can be; because I remember that shortly after I entered school I began to learn all about smog, endangered animals, and world overpopulation; how man was killing all of nature. Wild turkeys were one of those things that we were destroying. And now I see them everywhere, plentiful enough to find along highways, and also brazenly strutting around in the backyard of the very school where I first learned to be depressed about my own existence.

It's taken me a long time to unpack that bitterness, and realize that the resurrection, The Resurrection, means I do not have to live in fear. There will always be a tomorrow, for wild turkeys, little foxes, and my beloved fellow man.

All text and photos © Copyright 2009 High Tor Media, Inc.