Wake Up Calls

A recent feature reported by Susan Spencer on CBS Sunday Morning entitled “Can Money Buy Happiness” included mention of a 2002 New Yorker cartoon by Eric Lewis. It shows an old man on his deathbed, saying to his about to be bereaved, “I should have bought more crap.” It made me laugh, as I am once again in the unpleasant process of attempting to pare down, at least a little.

It also made me think about how I am currently spending much of my time, and as I pack for eBay shipments, I’ve been considering my personal cartoon captions:

I should have…

posted more

pinned more

tweeted more

followed more

taken more selfies

driven better stats

complained more

watched more news

The possibility for ludicrous (but eye-opening) memes is endless. While writing this, another cartoon by Eric Lewis, published in the New Yorker in 2013, caught my attention: it shows the grim reaper knocking on a front door, saying “Take a wild guess, butter boy.”

I do hope life continues to be entertaining. 

Mexico on my Mind

Mexico has received some exceptionally bad reviews recently, with areas of the country now named by the U.S. State Department as places to avoid. I find that news disheartening, not that I don’t believe the reports, but because danger hasn’t been part of any sense I’ve engaged in country. I have loved what I’ve seen of Mexico, and my impressions have been heightened and sharpened by every visit. If you appreciate color, culture, pageantry, the aromas of food and flowers, and mornings begun with church bells and roosters, I encourage you to find a Mexican destination, and immerse yourself in it. You might find you love it too.

Betrayal and Blessing

Betrayal is a shame-filled word, laden with pain. My faith tradition tells us that Judas betrayed Jesus following a dinner of friends, remembered today, several thousand years later, as both an ending and a beginning. The word betrayal is used and felt when relationships have been close and meaningful, when there is consciousness of wrong behavior, when repair seems impossible.

Today, when tradition commemorates betrayal, it seems appropriate to also remember and respect friendship. To have a friend with whom one can share good and bad, celebrations and suffering, is to be renewed and repaired with each encounter. We are blessed by friendships, and Jesus showed us how easy (and difficult) it is to honor them: through love, service, and forgiveness.

Happy Easter!

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Lent, a Hare, and Good Stories

We are in the season some call Lent, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting”. As a child, I gave up chocolate as a way to pretend I was being pentinent (which wasn’t very difficult since chocolate wasn’t a staple around the house). I hadn’t a clue what pentinent meant, or what Lent was supposed to represent; I just knew that the weeks before Easter were dreary, and the Easter Bunny would soon bring relief.

So how and when did a rabbit become a symbol of Easter, carrying a basket of eggs, when a rabbit doesn’t even lay eggs? According to German Lutheran tradition from the 1600s, the Easter hare was a kind of Santa Claus who dispensed eggs to children who had been good. Rabbits were certainly active in the spring and their talents did not go unnoticed among signs of seasonal awakening. Wikipedia also explains that Orthodox churches had a custom of abstaining from eating eggs during Lent, boiling them to preserve for the end of the fast. Perhaps this is the source of their appearance in Easter baskets, but it still requires a lot of imagination to connect eggs to a hare. We adopted these symbols after Europeans left their homelands in the 1800s, bringing their traditions to America with them.

Enjoying the arrival of spring is a universal pleasure, and there’s nothing wrong with a good story to support festivities. My preference, however, is for the much older story that celebrates renewed life following a period of darkness and distance, after a Lent observed as a remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. I hope that story of rebirth and resurrection is still being shared with children, and isn’t entirely lost in commercialism and chocolate and cuteness. It has a great deal more staying power, and its source continues to send endless means through which to see the world with refreshed vision. I found renewal at the Arboretum this week, where the message was loud and clear. Hope Springs Eternal. And it is stunningly beautiful.