A walk in the woods

085FF73A-33BC-49AA-9577-6179636C11D6Last weekend was good in so many ways: On Saturday, we saw the Chicago premiere of debbie tucker green’s hang and enjoyed a quiet meal at one of our regular spots near the theater. And on Sunday, we walked in one of our favorite natural areas. (I love the transitions from one part of the park to another — for example, in the photo above, the birches herald the floating walkway.) By the time we finished our long explore, the Easter brunchers had feasted and departed from our local breakfast haunt, so we enjoyed another quiet meal out. And I had time to practice and read, while my husband had time to study.

The date of the concert is fast-approaching, so practice is on my mind. On that note (punny), we have one play, one walk, and as much practice as possible on this coming weekend’s schedule.

Happy Good Friday.

The original version of this post was first published thirteen years ago.

“Happy Good Friday.”

For seven years, my boss at the large city parish in which I worked, a man who initialed memos and requisitions “JOB,” greeted me such on this day in the Triduum. The first time it staggered me. Happy Good Friday? Even in my child-like understanding of the Roman Catholic tradition, I couldn’t reconcile “Happy” with “Good Friday.”

“It’s the beginning of the greatest mystery of our faith,” he explained. “He dies, but we know how the story ends. He rises. It is a celebration, the greatest celebration in our tradition. Happy Good Friday.”

Happy Good Friday.

Once upon a time ago….

I was a lector in that same Catholic parish. I am a great reader-aloud, and the stories on the liturgical calendar are among the greatest ever told, aren’t they? Whether you believe or not, the stories inspire awe. And it is this reader’s opinion that they should not be thundered or mumbled or chanted. The stories must simply be told, read — with expression, not affectation. And, oh! I loved sharing those stories as much as I love reading aloud to my own children.

It happened, then, that the Triduum schedule was drafted. The liturgical director scripted the Passion readings for the evening Good Friday mass, breaking them into parts that five lectors would share. I was one of the lectors asked to read.

When I took my place at the lectern for the third time that Good Friday evening, it was to read the passages concerning Christ’s crucifixion and death.

I can affect no false drama — I laugh when it’s funny, cry when it’s sad. No pretense. Artificiality is the death of narrative. Heck, it’s the slow death of feeling, of everything, isn’t it?

And so it happened that at the sentences in which Jesus acknowledges his mother, my throat closed with silent sobs, and at “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit,” I was reading through tears. Usually one to look up at my fellow parishioners while lectoring, I could no longer see and so kept my eyes down. I can’t tell you what I thought or observed in the long moment that followed my last word and my move away from the lectern to take my place among the other lectors. I knew only that these were among the most profound passages in perhaps the greatest narrative ever written, and that they overcame me.

I stood with the other lectors and, as they say, collected myself. Writers know that these moments arrange themselves and occur far more quickly than we can possibly describe. As regular awareness returned to me, though, I realized that silence was an immense roar in my ears; that “what comes next” had not begun, seemed unlikely to begin; that the hundreds of people crowded into that large, darkened church, the priests on the altar, the Eucharistic ministers behind me… we were, all of us, spellbound.

Of course, at some point, the liturgy did continue, in its power and the promise of hope and renewal.

But, for a few moments, we were, that Good Friday night, aware of terrible sorrow, the ineffable sadness that precedes a renewal or realization of a hopeful promise.

_______________

What wise man said that we must look at Christ and not Christians because Christians disappoint but Jesus himself never does? Well, if we were spellbound, then the spell did not last nearly long enough. Many parishioners felt compelled to talk with me afterward, about how this was the first time they had actually heard the words, felt them, been moved by them. A hundred, two hundred, and more thank-yous and hugs and tears. My legendary personal space issues had been lifted from me for this one evening, and I began to understand the meaning of “a community of faith.”

On the Monday after Easter, however, I learned that the parish’s newest priest was disturbed by the “drama” of the Good Friday liturgical celebration and was vehemently recommending a more traditional reading delivered by priests or deacons rather than members of the lay ministry.

I have only been to Mass three times since.

But this isn’t a story about losing religion, is it?

This is a story about Good Friday. So.

Today, Christ acknowledges his mother, giving her to his trusted friend. And today, he dies. Again. Because it is only in the repetition of the narrative that we humans get it. He will die every year. And he will be born every year.

Perhaps it’s a story that mothers understand most clearly.

And it makes us weep.

And that’s not drama, foolish priest.

It’s life. And, perhaps, the promise of something beyond it.

Happy Good Friday.

Earlier this week

5B498219-EE1C-4A99-B05C-67A5CFD56FF3Chocolate nirvana coffee and good books have helped me negotiate some of the inevitable letdown that follows my daughters’ return to campus after break. My work takes me out of myself, too, and we’ve also had a number of those “Well, life is just like that, isn’t it?” moments this week. Examples: The plumber has visited. My car required a repair shop visit. Our ductwork was replaced. (And no one put his foot through my ceiling!) Now I’m feeling a bit like I need another break. Heh, heh, heh.

“Until nostalgia has smothered my fury.”

The 2016/17 season of Project FeederWatch opened Saturday. Monday and Tuesday are my usual count days, and one of this weekend’s to-do items was to build a better checklist, one that mirrors my typical sightings but leaves room for infrequent backyard visitors (like the Eastern Wild Turkey or the Hermit Thrush). Once I was satisfied with the new design, I pulled out my clipboard, to which last season’s checklists were still attached. In the margin of one was scrawled, “Until nostalgia has smothered my fury.”

I could not recall the origin of this wonderfully apt quote, but a quick search led to a declaration by Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey. You know, I was all in for the first two seasons of DA, but by the third, I had grown a bit bored. I did catch much of the final season, though, even if with only one eye and mostly for the moments Smith was onscreen. If this checklist marginalia was my takeaway, then it was certainly time well spent, as I can think of at least two inquiries to which this is the perfect response.

Ahem.

In addition to the nearly seventy hours I served as an election judge during early voting, I put in 15.5 hours on Election Day. The remainder of last week was devoted to focused music practice, phone time with my daughters, paperwork, and reading. By Friday morning, I was back to my daily walk, and over the weekend, we finished winterizing the forever home between walks, talks, and errands. Can the month be half-over already? We will soon enjoy a nine-day autumn break, then, during which we will see Electra at the Court, visit a museum (or two), spend a day at the zoo (maybe), hike in the woods, and play a number of games (including the expansion pack for Exploding Kittens).

Before the break, though, I will move on from Haydn’s “Serenade” and accept my next solo piece, and I will finish reading Life Reimagined (Barbara Bradley Haggerty), I Hunt Killers (Barry Lyga), The Couple Next Door (Shari Lapena), and Plutona (Jeff Lemire). Cara Hoffman’s Running, an ARC, is being nibbled until those four are done.