Family Time | New life is underneath the old dead stuff
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New life is underneath the old dead stuff

New life is underneath the old dead stuff

I love Easter.

I was baptized on Easter in a dramatic ceremony. Father Rick, the priest at the time at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Killington, Vermont, had a background in theater. It was dark, and then we came in during a procession, and candles lit. I was nine or ten, I think, and it was my choice. My mom was raised Catholic and my dad was raised Protestant, and so they thought they’d let us kids choose what to do when we got older instead of having us baptized as babies. I really loved going to that church. It seemed like Father Rick, especially, but also Father Don, who followed him, and Diane Root, who followed him, always could read my mind and say exactly the thing to get me through whatever it was I was going through. It always felt personal.

My sister (bottom left) and I (top right) were acolytes for a while. Bangs and big blue glasses — it’s been my thing for a long time now.

I’m not a regular churchgoer, and I’m more than not a fan of people who use their religion to hate; sometimes learning of someone’s Christianity is a big turnoff to me, until I figure out that they’re a real Christian that is actually practicing as Jesus taught; to love one another and to be good at heart, and not somebody using the Bible as a backward excuse to be cruel and unloving.

I don’t really call myself Christian because I don’t like being lumped into a category with those guys. I love my LGBTQ+ friends and while abortion is not something I would choose today, especially after becoming a mother and loving my babies from conception, I do strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose. (Like, who was it that said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” — right?)

So I made up my own religion, and it’s a buffet of things I like from all different kinds of spiritualities. I call it Katethysianism. It’s not Un-Christian. Lots of those pieces are in there, the good ones. None of the hate ones. Zero of those. But it’s my own personal relationship with spirituality, and that’s what I call it.

But I love church for lots of things. The theater of it. And the incense and the singing out loud with everyone even when you don’t know the song and the feeling of being somewhere sacred and holy. I love remembering routines and things to recite that I learned in my youth, and being around people who are trying in their heart of hearts to be good, and I love that mystery of faith thing. And I love stories that make you realize things about life. I don’t take it all as necessarily culturally relevant to today, but that’s the job of the priest; and your own brain — to interpret it and find the pieces that make sense. If you change some of the words around, a lot of it makes plenty of sense with science and universal truths and aligns with other religions as well. I call it “running it through the translator.”

For me, sometimes that means I think about Jesus as a guy who’s a role model, of course, and also mysteriously could do some crazy stuff. I’m okay not really understanding that part of it and not knowing if it was a literal miracle or some kind of metaphor or bad translation, the walking on water and water into wine stuff. Either way, neat-o! Good story. And I think about God as the energy, weird forces of the Universe and the fact of chaos and miraculous coincidence that means we even exist.

Like, it’s indisputably really really really unlikely that particles would bump into themselves in the Universe in such a way that life would happen, especially life that is aware of itself and ALSO aware of this COMPLETELY INSANE fact that it’s all so incredibly unlikely. So, whatever you call that. I call it God. So then when you read these things, and throw away the parts that only make sense if you’re living long ago in another country, if you change out the words like that, it all is very logical to me. So I think science and spirituality and all world religions have some bits in common. That’s basically Katethysianism.

This book is amazing. My friend Erin Dougherty gave it to me. My favorite bit is an illustration of a sign that says, “Please do not stomp here. There are seeds and they are trying.”

Similarly, what I really super love about Easter is the truth beneath it all. If you peel back the Easter Bunny and egg hunt bit, you see the “true meaning of Easter,” the story about Jesus surprising his friends. And if you peel back that bit you see the connection between zombie Jesus and the Easter Bunny. Which brings me to:

What I love about Easter is raking my yard.

The leaves from our trees always gather along the fence, making a thick cover. I don’t feel like doing yard work until it’s relatively nice out (and don’t misunderstand my parable: Cory really does most of the yard work, and all the work around the house, really). So anyway, when it’s nice out and I feel like tidying up the yard is usually about Easter time. And so I always think to myself, gotta get these leaves out of the way. And also: What a mess. And: Gross. As well as: This is a lot of #!*%ing work.

And every time. Every. Time. I rake the old deteriorating leaves on the edge of our yard. And underneath dry, mummy leaves and the thick, goopy, slimy leaves underneath those ones, there are always flowers trying to grow.

They’re already on their way, actually — not just trying! There are fresh green stems poking out from the ground. Lilies, daffodils, iris and tulips. And it always amazes me.

Autumn feels like dying. And Easter feels like birth.

Life doesn’t rhyme. It’s bullets and wind chimes. It’s the rope that ties the noose and the rope that hangs the backyard swing. — Andrea Gibson, Dive

And it is. You don’t have one without the other. Life and death are two parts to a whole. Yin and yang. Dark and light. I’m not the first to realize it, but it still always hits me like a revelation, each time I discover those green shoots.

I’m grateful for living in Northern New York, where that is so clearly visible with our four seasons. And that’s why, even though I’m not a regular churchgoer, I really like to go to church on Easter, even if it means bribing my kids for quiet. I want them to grow up with at least that.

I have loved ones who are going through tough things. Serious life changes. Dark times. Struggles, even for their lives.

Our country is in a sorry state, and I feel apocalyptic and devastated when I think of climate change denial and how far gone we already are in that regard. It makes me never want to get out of bed, and truth be told, I haven’t been very good at getting out of bed in the morning. I mean, ever, but especially lately.

Sometimes I think of what somebody said to me once about bees, how they aren’t single animals, but part of a hive. A bee sacrifices its life for the greater good without thinking twice. A bee knows there is more to it than its own singular life. I stay kind of, sort of, aware about world news, but I spend most of my focus on what I have control over. The bubble within arms reach: My family, my friends, my business, my community. I try to make the area within arms reach a better place to be. Trying to know that my being alive is for the purpose of serving the greater good, and I want to let that shine through my every action. Not to say self-sacrifice is the way; but to know where you’re needed, what you’re needed for, and also to know how best to preserve your energy for where you’re most needed.

Anyhoo, I find great comfort in knowing that there are green things growing underneath the brown leaves. And I hope that my friends who are going through something hard find comfort in knowing that it’s all for something. Pain is so you know joy. The arrow is pulled back before it launches forward. It’s not all bad; it’s just bad right now. And that means there is something trying to grow underneath it.

Easter is a welcome reminder to me that with every life, there is death.

And with every death, there is life.

Green things trying to grow

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Here is a little video of me raking.

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