4.04.2010

Easter Thoughts


Many years ago, I wandered into a church in suburban New York on Easter Sunday. This was the first year in more than a decade that I wasn’t celebrating a Passover seder with my husband. We were newly divorced, and oddly, with the end of the marriage came the end of my exploration of Jewish rites and rituals. They had not been important to my husband in those days, but to me, thinking about how to raise our children, the question of what it meant to be a Jew was paramount.

I have been disorganized about religion for a long time--am I an atheist? Agnostic? A Buddhist? A Christian? A Jew? Nothing or some of each?  But as a child I loved Easter: the new spring coat, and new white straw hat, new white gloves, the basket, the hunt for eggs.  (And as for eggs: they are spring's welcome; the hens leave off being broody, eat more buggy protein, start laying in earnest, and the yolks of their eggs turn the color of daffodils…)

Note that I do not mention, as part of my childhood recollections, Jesus, the tomb, the Resurrection. That part went right by me. I regret to say that it still does, in some profound way. But I think about it, and all matters spiritual, much more than I used to. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I do not have to force any decisions about what I do or don’t believe. I have adopted an entirely new approach to many things these days, which can be summed up in one line: We’ll see what happens.

As I sat in a church I had never before visited, I listened to a sermon about Mary at Jesus’ tomb. The minister read from either Luke or Mark, I can no longer recall. But what I do remember is that his entire sermon was about fear. How Mary went to the tomb, and found the rock rolled back, and the dead body gone. How the first thing she felt was not joy, or wonder, or excitement. Mary felt fear. She was trembling and bewildered. And she fled.

Mary strikes me as a deeply sensible woman.

The minister urged the congregation to consider fear, how important an emotion it is, and how natural a response it is, even, or perhaps especially, to things miraculous. He didn’t dwell on fear for long, but I have embroidered much on that sermon in the years since. I have been through several episodes, life-altering crises, during which all I could feel was raw fear. And because of that sermon, I didn’t try to conquer it, or deny it. Instead, I let myself sink into the fear--not letting it bury me, but trying to live with it, or be in it, and examine it.

I have come to understand that when I feel fear, it is because something important is happening. It means that I am going through an enormous change, leaving something behind, moving into the unknown.  Maybe someday I will feel the miracle of Jesus’ rebirth. And maybe not. We’ll see what happens. But surely there is a lesson for everyone in Mary’s frank humanness and, ultimately, in her fortitude.

26 comments:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I think at every crisis in my life, the fear has been the worst part and always more difficult to endure than the actual event. So much of what I was taught about God as a child centered around the concept of fear. I now feel that was never what God intended, and I try not to see Him through that particular lens now.

Wishing you a lovely Easter day!

victoria thorne said...

Only wanted to stop in and say that this is beautiful, and a lovely way to start Easter. Mary's fortitude has gotten many of us through an awful lot, hasn't it? And to learn from fear by trying to be in it and not let it bury us; this is the thing, isn't it? Wonderful words. Thank you.

Wishing you a magnificent day. "We'll see what happens." A very fine thought, indeed.

Di Brito said...

What a lovely and honest post. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Di from San Francisco

Sandra Goozée said...

Dominique, you cannot imagine how much your voice
has been missed since the demise of House and Garden. This post is a beautiful example of how you are able cut to the heart of the matter and share your own idiosyncratic view which, in the writing, becomes universal.
I am so glad to have found you again. Welcome Back and Happy Easter.

lostpastremembered said...

Dominique> a very provoking Easter piece. There is fear in the process of rebirth, isn't there? Fear in that shock of transition from the old to the new. In these times so many of us have it running through our lives like a machine hum because the old securities are gone. Pretty much everyone of us is only a beat from divorce or job loss or financial ruin no matter where we are in the world. Where are those pillars of security that seemed inviolable? This is a new and not very comfortable feeling. To deny it is wrong. I feel that in your words What we do with the fear...that is the question. To reflect deeper within ourselves... to understand what it is we fear...that is a a fine Easter message. Fear may be the opening movement of great and good change. Happy Easter!

Dominique said...

http://lostpastremembered.blogspot.com/thank you so very much. I want to tell everyone I know about your recent sea urchin post. Not only beautiful but delicious--both post and urchins. and that hedgehog picture! One son was obsessed with them when he was little and I had a devil of a time finding a stuffed animal hedgehog; I'm not even sure I succeeded, actually. Why don't they live here in Rhode Island? Time for some research....It is always wonderful when writing about food leads to wondering about life. Thank you! ....pamela terry edward: yes, I agree, too much fear taught to children, perhaps to control unruliness, but it does damage what I think should be the essential, loving message....

Boo's Mom said...

Lovely post. Thank you.

Ann Marie said...

Thank you for this Easter post. I, too, am so glad to have found you again and a voice for all of us who seem to be in a similar place but feel we are going through this time in our lives alone. Reinvention is hard but possible and there is a place for those of us who have experience and something to say about this new stage of our lives.

SPLENDEROSA said...

What a brilliant and insightful post, Dominique.
Each of the comments have important things to say. As a mature woman I feel the same, "there is a place for those of us who have experience and something to say about this new stage of our lives" which Ann Marie stated. I've been through all of this, still don't know where I'm going from here, but I know all will be well. The universe has given us the power of reason, we're the only living things on our planet who have this gift. I'm thinking about all of it every day. Marsha

Thea Beasley, formally known as Talitha Love.... said...

I have always felt the same way, and it was a pleasure to read it explained so eloquently. Thank you!

Tricia said...

The gifts of fear... I felt invincible until I was about fifty, then suddenly felt my legs tremble and my body stiffen while I was up a scaffold, and thought "this is what everybody meant."

It was important. I understand so much more now, and feel part of the human race. I don't think there can be real compassion without knowing the meaning of fear, and accepting it.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning....

Thank for the posting. Reading it, I thought that you (as, among other things, the mother of two sons) ought to know of this song by Patty Griffin. My own mother (at age 72,with three sons) LOVES this song, to which I introduced her. Click on :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOxpvKuEruk

Additionally, My Good Guess is that you'd appreciate the writer Geraldine Brooks's (she won the Pulitzer a couple of years ago for her novel "March") comments on her own conversion to Judaism (following her marriage to the writer, Tony Horwitz, and prior to the birth of their first son).

She writes beautifully of the decision in either "9 Parts of Desire" or "Foreign Correspondence" (two of her non-fiction books....and I can't recall which one, just now, at this middle-aged moment on Easter Day).

In any case, I just googled the matter (I know...the last resort of the fuddle-headed) and came up with this:
"...My dad served in Palestine in World War II and, as a committed socialist, got swept up in the romance of the young kibbutz movement. He was a passionate lefty Zionist all his life. So from an early age, I caught his fascination and had two Israeli penpals for many years - one Arab, one Jewish. When I fell in love with a Jew, I didn't want to be the end of the line for his heritage. I wanted to be able to pass it on to our kids. I am very lucky to belong to a terrific Reconstructionist community with a learned rabbi, Caryn Broitman, who inspires me. "

Oh...in any case, I thought to send both that song and Geraldine's writing to you this Easter day.

It's awfully good to see that you're writing again (and, yes, I coughed up the credit card number to get some copies of this new book of yours, which I'm sure will be good).

For now, I have to go out and find somewhere in this yard to plant the brown-turkey fig-bush that a friend just brought me for my Easter present.

Now?....Where to put something that will grow as big as a volkswagen?....and you think YOU have problems deciding what to do in life, around the house, and in the garden?

Happy Easter,
David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Kathy said...

Yes, Mary, the mother, stands with us during times of change, when fear of the unknown,can overtake the positive aspects of the change. The overwhelming desire to ignore the fear, and just plow through, is difficult to overcome. Thank you for provoking thoughts.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

I have such a different perspective of Mary at the tomb: fear (i.e. reverence) and JOY at the thought of our Lord alive. This post is lovely. Yes, "be" in the midst. Of fear, of exultation, just BE. Your commenters are a delightful read, aren't they? Slow Love Life blog posts are even better than Easter candy!

Anonymous said...

My earlier approach with fear was to attempt to make it disappear, just go away. Not too successfully, I might add.

Now I'm trying to live a good life even if I feeltremendous fear at times. Making friends with the unknown and the unknowable.

Happy Easter, happy spring.
Barbara

Emom said...

We'll see what happens....perfect....smiles.

Dominique said...

Thank you so much, Mr. Terry, for song and books; my next stop is Amazon to place an order. I must say, I kept hearing the sound of chain saws coming off your camellia comment; so glad you rebalanced the karma and planted new white ones!

John Bullwinkel said...

I too am very glad to have found you again, Ms. Browning. I was so disappointed when I found out House and Garden had been discontinued. As a long-widowed, single, middle-aged gay man who has an overwhelming interest in houses and homes, making one into the other, I've always subsribed to some "shelter" magazine. House and Garden's design esthetic was way beyond my means - actually almost all of the shelter mags are - but I still looked forward to it because of your essays. They were always thoughtful, honest, frequently funny and so himan. Plus you have an appreciation for Joni Mitchell! I had often thought to write to you to thank you you while I was getting the magazine but never did. Fear? Maybe. Or just the thought you might not actually get the letter personally.

One of the previous commenters mentioned needing to have experienced fear to be able to feel real compassion, which is a wonderful thought. I also feel that you need to have experienced fear to have courage. Don't know where that came from but I think it's true.

There's so much more I'd like to write, but I've gone on long enough. Once again, thank you for all you give.

Dominique said...

A HUGE SHOUT OUT to Mr. Terry about that Patty Griffin version on YouTube...fantastic duet. Of course, anything she does is fine by me....same goes for Alison Krauss, Emmy Lou Harris...and of course Joni Mitchell....

And re design beyond our means: Here's how I always thought of it: when you want to learn about art, you go to a museum. You aren't necessarily going to afford to buy a Picasso, but you are training your eye. Same with design in all its variety. You learn from the greats, who enjoy the patronage of wealthy clients. You train your sensibilities. You get ideas. And you become a better scout for those hidden treasures at flea markets and consignment shops as well....

I can't tell you the number of times I walked into design studios at Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel, and saw pages of our magazine pinned on the walls, giving inspiration for things that could be made more affordably. At HG we always thought of showcasing design that way--as teaching by showing the best. With shopping ideas, on the other hand, we tried to cover more of a price range.

These thoughts might be helpful as you continue to browse through those lovely shelter magazines! I find them addicting....

Lois H. said...

I was thrilled to read your piece in the NY Times magazine section this week. I was a stylist for an interior design firm and was laid off last year quite unexpectidly. So much of what you said resonated with me. I was a huge H & G fan and was shocked when it folded. It was always chock full of great visual images and your heart was always present in its content. I'm glad you kept your sense of humor and look forward to reading your book. From one fellow gardener to another I hope this season of rebirth brings you great joy.

holyvernacular said...

Seeing a posted comment by old friend Pamela Terry (who appreciates and spreads beauty herself), I had to jump in and say that I randomly found your blog today while sitting in a noisy car dealership, and it brought me peace and delight (two rare gifts). I had to stop and write about it. Will buy the book and lobby for a reading at my local independent bookstore.

Jan Jessup said...

When each issue of HOUSE & GARDEN arrived, the first place I turned was to read the Letter from the Editor...always thought provoking and lyrical. It's so nice to have you back in a medium that's so much more immediate than that allowed by the publishing schedule of a monthly magazine.

Your post on Easter Thoughts reminded me of my favorite quote from Ranier Maria Rilke that has been comforting in times of crisis:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into the answer."

Dominique said...

Gorgeous Rilke quote, do you remember where it is from? I want to take my dog-eared college paperbacks down from the shelf and do some rereading...many thanks. d

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound as if you had been taught much about Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. How about His Agony in the garden of Gethsemane?

That minister may have been wrong about Mary's trembling in "fear". She put ALL of her trust in God. Remember that Mary watched her Son die on a cross while people were mocking Him. Enough to make any mother tremble.

Jesus taught His disciples NOT to fear and to put their trust in Him.

Dominique said...

Try reading Mark and Luke again. As always, what Jesus--and the Bible-- teach is rich and complex. And, as always, we find wisdom when we are ready for it.

Anonymous said...

Taking life as it comes has a pleasant and unhurried ring to it that is indeed attractive to us all - but let us sometimes also purposely do as you have and revisit the key events that once bore fruit in our hearts. Yes, at Easter let us retrace faithful Mary's steps in our minds and marvel at the power and sacred hope of that resurrection morning.