Today, I thanked a tree for its shade, pausing under its broad branches for a moment’s break from the late morning sun. I even blew it a kiss, the only gift I could think of to offer back was this bit of extra CO2 for its respiration. A very small bit, to be sure.
On a normal day, I wouldn’t notice this tree or at least I would pay it no mind. But these aren’t normal days, are they? These are odd days, co-opted by the novel corona virus. They have us thinking a-new about every thing and thinking more about everyone. Paying closer attention and taking more care.
Unannounced, this had me attending in a different way to many things I passed in my outing. This tree was the first of many trees I thanked, along with the woman riding toward me on her bike who got off and walked it wide so I could pass at the prescribed social distance. I returned the favor to a cyclist where I had room and he didn’t.
Not all were happy things. I lamented the loss of the life of a turtle who, in departing his pond in search of a distant and deeper shore, didn’t make it that far. This invited sudden thoughts of people who were now in peril because they had embarked on a similar trip. What was it like in the face of this virus if you were in close quarters, in a homeless shelter or detained as an immigrant seeking asylum?
Further on, from another resting spot in the shade, I could see a family of Sandhill Cranes walking along the shore. Mom and Dad mate for life; each year their brood is only two fuzzy yellow crane-lings. This family who only had one saddened me; I had watched two chicks with these parents only a day before. The danger to the young and the defenseless is real in all species.
Actually, that today was yesterday.
Today, I thanked the rather the tall hedge who provided me shade as the sun was still early in the sky.
The walkers gave me less leeway, so I swung wide for them.
The early bikers preferred the roadway to the path, as auto traffic was far more sparse than pedestrian.
The turtle now rested on its shell, having provided sustenance for scavengers nearby.
The cranes pecked their way along the familiar shallow hillside. Mom, Dad, and baby.
I paused then to appreciate the cool shade offered by the trees by the pond. I marveled at the majestic blue heron fishing, the glistening snowy egret so still, and the black bird in flight whose red wing patches gave it away. It landed in the reeds near the cranes who paused in pecking their way along shore’s edge.
Mom, Dad, baby and… another spot of yellowish white. From my distance I couldn’t be sure, but perhaps. If it moved I would know. I waited and watched. No one sped me along. No one called me home. No one pushed my pace or bid me hurry. I waited and watched, craning my neck and squinting into the quickly brightening day.
The spot moved; I was almost certain. As I looked on, it did move and then, sure enough, it straightened into a gangly, yellow fluff of a walking thing. It wasn’t dead; it was alive. I had witnessed a resurrection! Praise be!
In the times we are living, these 2020 times, this corona virus time, this Lenten time that will now almost surely conclude in canceled Easter services, this chick come to life felt like a sacred moment.
I have heard some quip that “This Easter Jesus will stay dead,” but watching the baby crane I wondered if things had turned their way around. Perhaps resurrection is happening among us, so that this Easter, in the very midst of the hardship and sacrifice we’re witnessing, we will be the ones telling the stories of all that God is redeeming and bringing back to life.
And that tomorrow will be all our todays.
Something was taken without your permission. Stolen while you weren’t looking. Nipped in the bud. Just as it was blooming, coming together, looking up, coming to fruition. So much hope. So much potential. So much.
Without asking, they shut down your season, closed your show, before you even had a chance to take the stage. It was over before it began. Cancelled until further notice. All you were looking forward to is now not even a memory. Not even a loss or a defeat or a failure. It just … isn’t.
Absence. Without consummation. Missing In Action. Gone without a trace. Oh my, closure. Lotta folks gonna need closure. Because what might have been is no longer. Lives. Livelihood. Hope. Gone missing. In an instant.
There’s a house down the street I’ve often noticed — even though I try not to — where a black and grey flag has been flying for quite some time now. Years really. Decades actually. P.O.W. MIA. Wonder if they’d talk to me. Share their wisdom and resolve. Help me get through this.
My loss is really quite nothing compared to theirs. Maybe we could talk about it. About how it feels to lose something, Someone … what it does to you, how you get by, how you go on, day to day.
Holy Redeemer, comfort us in our losing. Sustain us in our hardship. Create in us a heart that reaches, that holds, that loves. Till the soil of that garden you’ve been planting, even the one born of despair, for you know the plans you have for us, to give us hope and a future. Us, not I.
In the days’ dimness, let there be light.
Tension. It’s the greatest scourge of our times.
Not anxiety, not worry, and not fear. As destructive as these are and as frequently as we are chastised for feeling them or cautioned about employing them, they are not what’s keeping us from moving forward in our days.
What’s really upending us is tension. Tensing is our body’s answer to what ails us and confronts us. Be ready, it says, don’t get caught off guard. Be diligent, don’t be found unaware. Be clever, don’t be fooled. These “be’s” have us wound tight and ready to spring. The irony is that the chronic contraction has nearly disabled our ability to move at all.
How much better off we’d be if we all took a deep breath with a big exhale to calm ourselves enough to actually feel our physical. To attend to the inward, to go deeper, to sit and chat a while with those emotions and sensations. Why not ask their names and where they hale from? Perhaps they’ll give you a temporary pass to explore just a bit, or at least negotiate a temporary ceasefire.
It’s funny what you find when you go there and see what shakes out. I went rummaging this morning, wondering about the root of my reaction to gripping tightly, and there I discovered a small child of five or six holding fast to the string of a red balloon. She was smiling up at her mom and dad as they walked together to the car after the school fair, until she saw the treasured prize begin to float up into the air. Soon it was aloft on the wind, growing smaller and smaller. Tears. Dismay. Gone.
We hold tight to things we love. But life has a way of teaching us that no earthly thing is forever. That we’d do well to hold it loosely, give it some breathing room and see where it takes us. If we’re on speaking terms, maybe it will tell us what we need to hear or show us what we need to do. If we are lucky and we listen carefully, it may explain itself to us — it may explain ourself to us — and that is profound gift.
Did you know you had been clenching your fists? grinding your teeth? furrowing your brow? What if you were to say, Hey, it’s okay to let your guard down for a moment. Take a break from the front lines. Release the weight of responsibility you’ve been bench-pressing. Relax and let another shoulder the burden for a moment. Allow yourself to recover and regroup.
The most amazing thing happens when we step back and exhale the breath we didn’t realize we’d been holding: the collapse we were expecting doesn’t come. We straighten instead. And, in our straightening, we extend.
No need to let go completely, just loosen our grip. Look at all the options we’ve been missing. Imagine if I had seen then that all any child needed was a small weight at the end of her balloon string so she need not worry. I’d be set for life!