Observing Resurrection is
mostly a counting-out exercise: One, two—this is alive and filled with
bloom. Three, four—these are growing. Five, six—the soil is rich and
eager to give life. Seven, eight—the rains water the earth, mists rise
from the soil. Nine. Ten.
This is the time of year, of
course, when all things come to life again. I find myself walking the
garden morning and evening, checking which plants have survived the
winter, which are still dormant, and which are thriving, having grown
during and despite the harsh winter—in the frozen ground, beneath the
frigid ice and snow.
Right now, David and I are mostly
cleaning up after the cold months. I’ve moved the patio table and
chairs to a corner under the lilac bushes, which are eagerly
anticipating their call to center stage. I’ve marked the big tree, now
dead, that needs to be chain-sawed and hauled to edge the end of the
driveway parking area. And when I get tired—we are also involved in a
project reclaiming the basement—I luxuriate in the graying string
hammock to which I’ve attached a cord that loops to the tree so that
when I lie down, after giving it about three pushes and hauling my feet
up, I can then yank hard on the upswing and perpetuate the back and
forth sway. Prone, I gaze upward to the treetops of the gardens. I
measure the blue of the blue sky—what hue is it today exactly? I catch
the flight of the birds. I watch the swaying of the limbs of trees in
the wind. In my eyes, I balance the mass of light and shadow.
is mostly a matter of remembering. I mark where the jonquils now grow
in the woods and vow to stick stakes in each clump so I know where to
plant a couple hundred more come fall. Now is time to place the small
plastic green pots (with a twig stuck through their upside-down holes to
hold them steady for fall planting). I need to order more White Emperor
tulips for under the apricot tree, more Apricot Beauty tulips for the
hosta box, and more Negrita, the almost black/purple tulips for the far
back garden (so far back only my neighbor can really enjoy them). How
many marking sticks will I need?
I must remember to tie
inauspicious ribbons on the shrubs I have planted, the viburnums and
the hydrangea, so that when David gets frisky with the hedge clippers,
he won’t cut down what I have so carefully put into the ground (and
don’t quite remember where I planted them).
This year I need to make better gardening notes. Last year I was too busy gardening. The beds are all named for clarity’s sake, i.e.,
the Garage Garden, the Fountain Patio, the West Herb Bed, the Tree
Rings, the Back Patio Garden, etc., etc. But what plant have I put
where—exactly? And who gave me which plant?—half the fun of gardening
is sharing surplus and receiving someone else’s. (Mary Socal’s
Michael’s Archangel ground cover is thriving; her four Rose of Sharon
bushes took after I transplanted and staked them this fall.) I have one
notebook, arranged by beds, which tells me what grows where. In each
section I’ve three-hole-punched articles that deal with each kind of
plant—“Well Trained Climbers,” “Raising a Clematis,” “Caring for
Epimediums,” “Drying Herbs”—these become my reference points after I
have forgotten the garden over winter.
I’m hoping to
hold a plant sale this spring, so I hauled two large bags of potting
soil from Menards and will begin to fill them, hopefully this week,
with the wild overgrowth of Russian windflower, with divided hostas,
with shrubs that are threatening to overtake their corners and with filipendula, which has finally decided it likes its spot and is threatening to overwhelm that bed.
doesn’t look as though the monarda I transplanted is going to come up—I
should have waited to divide and move it this spring. The ferns are
unfurling, however, and are threatening to walk subterreaneously to
places where they were not appointed (like the gravel driveway).
Counting; counting—how is the flowering quince doing?
is on my mind; things coming back to life. It is all around me—verdant,
thriving, hobnobbing in the soil, gossiping with familiar biological
neighbors who have been underground all winter. The rose plants are
looking a little sad, but the new fern bed gives indicators that it’s
happy, and after David cut out the wild honeysuckle and wisteria, I
actually have the makings of a fairly substantial wildflower woods. I
can see the mayapple bed, the woodland geraniums. I brush my hand
against all things new green—an unconscious blessing. Next week:
fingers in the soil, in the dirt, in the clay, and in the loam; more
naps in the swinging hammock to ease my muscles.
supposed to be quiet this year. Only one of our extended families was
in town—our son Jeremy, his wife Angela and the little ones, Eliana and
Nehemiah. I’d do the table and the meal, and in exchange, Jeremy would
plan a rather smallish Easter-egg hunt. On Friday, I called him: “Oh,
Joel and Laurie are back from Easter vacation a little early. Joel and
Dad will pick up a few more things for the hunt.” We try to hide little
gifts and foodstuffs that are healthier than candy treats (yesterday,
long after the Easter date, I found a forgotten can of Chef Boyardee
SpaghettiO’s in an outdoors basket!) That meant three more at the
table. Randall and Carmel with their three offspring are in Phoenix—no
chance of them coming back. Too far. But David and I put an extender in
I set it for eight, with the pink mats and
matching napkins dominating. Cut-glass bowls and vases, glass
candlesticks and pressed-glass objects marched down the center of the
table—all filled with a collection of intricately painted Ukranian
Easter eggs (“Where did you find these, Mom?” a son asks every year. I
don’t remember. I know I found them when they were cheap, buying a few
each year during after-holiday sales.) I pulled out the flowered
English bone-china cups, which I only use during the Easter season. If
you hold them to the light, their sides are translucent. Then I
polished off the color scheme with the salmon-pink goblets that catch
the sun and throw blocks of light on the walls.
I cooked a traditional menu:
Easter Dinner Menu
Leg of Lamb With an Oregano-and-Lemon Crust Chopped Mediterranean Salad With Green Olives Cauliflower With Cheese Sauce Long-Grain Rice Great Harvest Bakery’s “Bunny Bread” Homemade Cheesecake With Michigan Blueberry Sauce and Angela’s Easter Cake With Eliana’s Sprinkles on Pink Frosting
hour before dinner was ready to be served (a late-afternoon dinner;
these days we build schedules around nap times), my daughter phoned.
They were almost home from Springfield, IL, where they had been with
her husband’s family for the weekend. “Is there still time for us to
come for Easter dinner? I told Doug, ‘I haven’t had Mother’s leg of
lamb for so long, I can’t remember when.’”
A pause: could I
get everyone around the table?—nope! Would there be enough food?—yes,
indeed, but there wouldn’t be many leftovers. “Oh, come,” I replied.
Our smallish celebration was turning into a festival. “Just bring your
folding chairs and a card table. I’ll get out two more Easter baskets.
Dad is running out of the house right now to pick up a few more items.
We’ll delay the Easter-egg hunt until you get here.”
celebrated Resurrection Day. The male lineage hid enough stuff for
eight kids in the backyard. (Where did it all come from?) Baskets were
filled. Cheeks were rosy. Smiles abounded. Josie (age 13) dubbed it, as
she is prone to do about many things, “the best Easter-egg hunt—ever!”
Eight adults filled the dining-room table. The big kids entertained
Elle—age two—at the little table. Her attitude is definitely one of, I’m here. Let the party begin!
She even punctuates her baby toddler sentences with “ta-da!” and
extends her arms for applause. Laughter and second servings and a
hungry family raving about the dinner. Second helpings and nothing left
but lamb leg bone. Easter cookies brought by Uncle Joel set on the card
table after dinner and frosting and toppings (in the living room!)
being spread on the bare cookie tops—and the carpeting!
this time, as many of you can imagine, I am a pretty tired lady.
Satisfied?—yes. Content?—oh, to be sure. Happy to have almost everyone
around me?—absolutely. Now, let them make conversation. Let
someone else serve second cups of coffee. Let another crew clear the
table, put the food away and do the dishes. I have been on my feet for
two days straight—I can do no more. I am counting out. I know at my age
how precious, how rare, how wondrous these gatherings are. I know that
Death or disability or job relocations can end them, how few years
there are left. But my offspring, ages 7 to 48, do not know yet; they
are not aware of the counting down that is life’s unfolding.
at the cookie table, oohing and ahhing over creations, I look into the
dining room to see little Nehemiah, who by now at seven months is a
pretty good little scooter—push with those little fat heels, scoot a
couple of inches (for now his momentum is all backward) under the
table. Push more; scoot again. He is lying on his back, looking up at
the underside of the table, kicking his feet, laughing—and clapping his
Resurrection is on my mind.
And I am
counting out: One, this life; two, this life. Who is well? Who seems to
be struggling? Three, four: Is their work giving them satisfaction? Do
they need to be moved to another location in order to thrive? Are the
grandchildren discovering their latent competencies? I keep a kind of
growth watch morning and evening. Most of all, beyond the benign
neglect, I resemble the baby Nehemiah. I’m just a happy woman,
scootched under the canopy of heaven and looking up, kicking my heels,
laughing—clapping my hands. Clapping.
"Read and Intercede" Book Group for Couples & Singles
If you are eager to be part of
the lively intellectual and spiritual exchange this kind of book group
affords (and you live in the nearby western Chicago suburbs) please
contact Judy Duncan at
. She will be happy to give you
details and directions to the home of Bruce and Judy Duncan in West Chicago.
BLOG: Gettin' Thru the Days
In order to build the Internet presence of the ministries of Hungry Souls,
which is mostly a science of how search engines pick up certain
keywords and phrases, Karen Mains is blogging. Actually, because she
feels called to write out into the culture, this blog is geared to
Internet browsers of all kinds who are at a point in life when it takes
everything they have just to get through the day. This is not as
overtly spiritual as the Soulish Food
e-newsletters, though the spiritual threads are not covert. The blog is
simply slanted toward another readership. However, if you are at a point
when just getting through the day is harder than it should be, you may
want to check out this blog at blog.karenmains.com. Gettin' Thru the Day begins with blog 2-62. Karen is writing a few blogs on nonviolent communication.
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
"Resurrection is on my
mind; things coming back to life. It is all around me—verdant,
thriving, hobnobbing in the soil, gossiping with familiar biological
neighbors who have been underground all winter."
Paradise of the Blind By Duong Thu Huong
A rich, sensuous journey
through a Vietnam rarely seen by outsiders, Paradise of the Blind tells
the story of three women fighting to maintain their dignity under a
government that discards old values and tears families apart. Hang, a
young girl growing into womanhood in the Hanoi slums, finally learns
the truth about her father's disappearance and death during the era of
government-imposed land reform. Meanwhile, Hang's self-sacrificing
mother, a struggling street vendor, watches helplessly as her life is
shattered by the political machinations of her own brother. And the
mysterious Aunt Tam, who has accumulated wealth and bitterness in equal
measure, fights for her niece's loyalty -- and future.
banned in its own country, this moving novel captures the hunger,
pride, and endurance of ordinary people in a land of intoxicating
beauty ... as it provides a rare, insightful look into a changing
Judy Duncan picked this
book (about which I had heard nothing) for our "Read and Intercede"
group. Without a doubt, it is one of the most exquisitely written works
I’ve read recently. Not only does it expose the reader to a rare
picture of a time in Vietnam, it dips into the lives of people about
whom most of us know little. Despite the grim environment of this
historical context, this is a beautiful story, beautifully told. A
great suggestion for the summer reading list (you do have a summer
reading list, don’t you?).