Christ is Risen Mary Karr

Gabriel convened a plushie meeting a week ago Saturday night (attendees had to bring their “yes” tickets as proof of invitation) to discuss our plans, each of us, for the following day.

His were concrete and Easter-basket driven: get up and have a special breakfast (pancakes or waffles count); wait for daddy to hide the Easter eggs; find the Easter eggs; come back inside and see what the Easter bunny brought (his belief in the power of the Bunny still rooted and strong).

J went next. J, with his grown-into, contrarian, slightly depressive (particularly as the day wears on) nature: Easter isn’t about a reedonkulous Bunny! I want to read the story about Jesus rising from the dead!

G proceeds to crawl under his bed, feelings hurt. John tells G that J has a right to free speech, and that we need to honor that. Come out, he says. Don’t get your feelings hurt. G crawls back out and puts his head on John’s lap. I admonish J for being mean about his free speech; we are in his bed cuddling as all of this unfolds.

My turn. I say that what G says sounds great. That I’d also like to read the Easter story, as this Lent has been a wash in many ways, particularly churchwise. [Birmingham is the nearest full-blown church (we attend a reader’s service in nearer-by Moundville—a church where the priest fell asleep in the Lord over a year ago), but the drive isn’t an easy one and I’m too tired to do it most weekends or with any regularity during the week. The church itself is on the rigorous end of the Orthodox spectrum, and I dread shepherding the boys through it, particularly since they’ve become accustomed to a much shorter reader’s service on Sundays. I only go to Bham when the boys are out of town or sick. So much for my parental and Christian responsibility for their spiritual formation. Epic fail? Perhaps. While I’m OK with that for now—gentleness and patience with myself being my self-chosen spiritual practices this Lent around—I acknowledge a change need be made in the near future).] In the moment, I don’t verbalize that last parenthetical. Instead I add I’d like to get up and have my coffee in my room and rise slowly to the day. Every one seems to approve.

Your turn Daddy, says G. I just want what you guys want, he replies. To the uninstructed reader, this may sound like a cop-out, but G’s cool with the answer, and considering I earlier unleashed my “I-feel-like-a-single-parent” diatribe on John just hours before, having taken the boys to a wondrous creek of a nature preserve by myself earlier in the day, I know he’s doing his best to do what he barely finds himself capable of doing. Suffice to say, I don’t know what it’s like to live his life, and best as I can imaginestand (my just-now-made-up word to convey how I try to understand his particular way of being in the world), surrender to our wishes is a spiritual discipline he practices quite regularly, willingly, and graciously.

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The day itself comes quietly and peacefully. The sun couldn’t have been brighter. All progressed as most all of us wished: coffee in my room (served by John), check; waffles, check; egg hunt, check; Easter baskets, check; Mediterranean pieced-together feast, check. We didn’t get to the Easter story until Monday night, but we aren’t known for being timely. In the afternoon the boys and I vacuum up the spiders in their basement hideout, followed by my sweeping up buckets of pollen-laden fallen leaves and dried up blooms. Late in the afternoon I finish reading Lit, a book by Mary Carr about her journey to sobriety, community, and, in turn, the Catholic faith. The book ended up being my unexpected but welcome companion throughout Holy Week. As Bright Week progresses, I turn to Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty, by Kate Hennessy (Day’s granddaughter). Though I have no plans for such, I may yet end up a Southern Catholic of a sort, that being what’s available in this Tuscaloosa of an Alabama. My true home is forever Orthodoxy, but considering my Mennonite Baptist Methodist Presbyterian Episcopalian road trip so far, well, the Lord only knows.

Around here, Southerners like to part with a kind of conversational benediction. Rather than “Have a good day,” they up the ante with “Have a blessed day.” Maybe it’s simply that the novelty of it hasn’t worn off, but I feel a true intention in their words, like a prayer being said over me.

Blessed may it be.

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Pastoral

These days I find myself quiet, nearly mute. New house, new life, same me, but changing. It’s a strange mix of change and continuity. While the beauty is different, it is no less striking. “Pastoral” by William Carlos Williams is the best way I know to say it. These photographs help, from my daily walk with Lucy Lou.

When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.
No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.

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“Pastoral” by William Carlos Williams from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams.
© New Directions, 1991.

 

 

Here means Alabama

I love Alabama. There. I’ve said it. So has Gabriel, just yesterday, before taking a step back and admitting that he probably doesn’t know enough about Alabama to make such a declaration without reservation (our interpretation of events, plainly). I concur both with his pronouncement and his restraint.

What I love: the sun. the sound of insects at night. the tree frogs that live around our house. the heat. the egret and the heron that live on the defunct golf course right outside our front door. the river. the dam. the pines. the elderly black women sweeping off their front porches each morning. the popsicle shop. the gardens. the curious glances people give Jonah and me as we walk Lucy. the way the rain pours. our house on a hill. our neighbors! the view of the grain elevator from our front window. the sound of trains nearby.

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I’d make a list of what I don’t love, but it’s not so easily done. So much is strange and new. I feel myself adrift . . . not exactly disoriented, but nearly so. It is a curious thing to find oneself both firmly on course and unmoored.

The squirrels are super skinny. The birds have longer beaks and tail feathers. The grasshoppers are black, with red stripes. The cicadas are twice as big as I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it feels like I’m wading through the air when I walk out the door in the morning, or at night, or in the afternoon. I’ve started to drink my water with ice for crying out loud, and I find myself needing a nap each afternoon, promptly at 2. They say you can see baby alligators in the lake down the hill at night. What am I to make of it all? The Ruth in me finds herself a stranger in a strange land.

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So much of the work of change is absorbing the new reality. People ask us how we are doing, how we are adjusting, what the new life is like. The new life is very much like the old life; the same irritations and propensities plague us and urge us forward or threaten to drag us toward our not-so-better natures. We are, on the whole, more sensitive, more defensive, less able to weather irritations. There have been angry outbursts and the stomping of feet and the flowing of tears. But the freshness of things here is a balm. We are discovering where to find our favorite pickles and creamer. We are delighted by the beer selection in a college town and are trying new brews. We’re a week into swimming lessons; we’re registered for school; we’re looking for jobs. We’re adorning our spaces with our favorite things and settling in. We’re cursing each time we hit our heads on the 5 ft. ceiling in the crawl space that serves as our garage storage (possibly the biggest adjustment: moving from a four-car garage to a complete lack of a garage). We’re installing a gas oven and setting up a coffee station.

We are here.

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