holy hours, indeed

by bam

when you grow up with whispers all around, teaching you, making you believe, deeply understand, that this stretch of days, most especially thursday through sunday, is outside of ordinary time, it is barely possible to inhabit these days, these hours, without that veil of knowing.

these are holy hours, indeed.

and these hours are not merely mine. they belong to ancient history, they belong to the narrative of God, as it was first scripted in my second-grade soul of wonder.

even after all these years, all these twists of heart and shifting sense of truth…

even deep amid the flourless days of pesach, the passover, which i now mark from year to year…

i have, over time, made the stories of jerusalem undeniably mine. i ache with prayer on holy thursday eve, as mauve of twilight fades to black of night, as i too enter the garden at gethsemane, kneel down and pray, right beside that holiest of holies, jesus of nazareth, the pulse of all the stories.

i will be the one, my little-girl heart shouts, who will defend him, who will rise up and keep him from the guards.

and then, on the friday they call good–one of the early theologic puzzles, why is it good, so many children ask, if jesus dies this day–i await the hours of darkness, when the dome of sky will rend, when charcoal clouds roll in, and clap of far-off thunder is the sign that heaven’s ripped right open.

so it is that i come to these days. so it is that this year i have stumbled, more than in a long long time, into holiness.

i found it where i always do, alone for hours on end in my garden.

well, not alone at all, really.

i’ve all sorts of company. a flock of six hopping robins has decidedly captured my attention and charms me without pause. one orange-breasted fellow bathes and preens with abandon–and no small hint of vanity–in the just-filled birdbath. he carries on without interruption, even when i tiptoe close enough to catch a splash.

and then, of course, there are my all-winter friends, the cardinals, papa and mama and their endless flirtations. papa rising to the highest branch and pouring out his heart, in those high notes, those notes that make me drop my pitchfork and play the game of can-you-find-the-scarlet-warbler?

and that’s just the start of it.

joining in on all the seasonal hubbub, i’ve whole newborn nurseries, a chockablock of baby growing things, their nubs just poking through the earth–this one frilly, that one headstrong and stretching for the sky. everywhere a marvel that brings me to my knees.

these are, indeed, the breath-taking days, the days of early spring, when every other inch is throbbing, daring, straining, to beat the winter’s odds, to surge back into life.

when dull gray, and sodden brown, give way to freshly-painted greens, and cloudbursts of cobalt blue, a blue so delicious i could drink it, paint my walls in it, wrap my shoulders with it, lay down a carpet of it and plop myself smack dab upon it. then roll.

through happenstance and topsy-turvy spring break tweaks of plans, i’ve had here a stretch of days away from downtown typing, half my family far away, and a little one who’s been bathed in play, friend upon friend, the old-fashioned way, when one afternoon tumbles into dinner and, round about bedtime, we deposit some sweet friend back where he belongs.

that unexpected equation–and days so warm and sunny i had to slather sunscreen on the little one when he went holy thursday fishing–has left me home alone to tend my garden.

and tend it i’ve done, dawn till late afternoon, slopping around in ripped-up jeans and paint-splattered rubber shoes.

why, i’ve got cuts on three fingers, and blush of sunburn too, the gardener’s badge of honor, along with blisters on the thumb and feet that won’t be pink again till far-off november, when the garden rake at last is hung for its wintry slumber.

these holy days of high-mast spring, i wake up bathed in birdsong, windows open wide, all the outside washing in. despite my little one’s pleas to please shut the nighttime windows.

“bats,” he chirped last night when i asked why we couldn’t let the night air swoosh right in. poor thing is drubbed by bedtime fears these days, and that errant bat was just his latest scary plot.

i promised him the screens (which never managed to get taken out and tucked away last fall) would keep all bats at bay. and so we fell asleep to the lullaby of april air, and hushed stirrings on the street.

before murky morning light gives way to over-exposed mid-morn, i am up and out again making rounds, marveling at the power of the sun and the insistence of shrub and tree and sprout to unfurl as if a race, and the winner gets…perhaps, a big fat easter basket, stocked to the brim with gooey chocolates.

even my mama called this morn, midway through her sacramental hot-milk ’n’ coffee, to tumble out her burning question: “have your gardens exploded overnight like mine?”

then she went on to recount the revelry of springtime’s pyrotechnics, winding up with the leafed-out honeysuckle, “never before this soon.”

(i get my madness the honest way, acquired surely through the genes.)

all this to say that this year the holiest of hours comes to me in unbroken meditation, in a brushing up against, digging into, the stirrings of the earth, the underworld emerging.

i’ve discovered once again that my deepest bliss is the one that has me cradling God’s tenderest invention: the rebirth i see, everywhere i turn, when i take the time to be amid the miracles of seed and sprout and egg and wing and holy slant of golden sun.

i leave you to dwell in holy thought, as no matter the religion, this rebirthing of the world stirs in all of us resurrection themes. be it escape from egypt’s slavery, or rising of the holy savior, there is a vernal theme, from death comes life. and it is ours to wrap our muddy hands around.