The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

You tell people up here that you’re from the South, and nine times out of ten, they say the same old thing: “I’m sure you miss the sunshine.” Rhonda and I both miss taking sunshine and easy morning commutes for granted. But what we really miss are the laughter and embrace of our mothers and grandmothers and aunties, kin and not kin. We miss the big oak tables in their dining rooms where, as kids in the seventies and eighties, we ate bowl after bowl of their banana pudding as they talked to each other about how much weight you’d gained, like you weren’t even there. We miss helping them snap green beans and shell peas sitting at their kitchen tables watching The Young and the Restless on the TV perched on the pass-through. We miss how they loved Victor Newman, hated Jill Foster, and envied Miss Chancellor and how she dripped diamonds and chandeliers.

We miss their bare brown arms reaching to hang clothes on the line with wooden pins. We miss their sun tea brewed all day in big jars on the picnic table in the backyard, then later loaded with sugar and sipped over plates of their fried chicken in the early evening. We miss lying next to them at night in their four-poster beds with too-soft mattresses covered by ironed sheets and three-generation-old blankets. We miss their housecoats, perfumed with Absorbine Jr. liniment and hints of the White Shoulders they’d spritzed on from an atomizer that morning before church. We miss tracing the soft folds in their skin when we held hands and watched our favorite TV shows in their beds. Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest.

We miss how they laughed and were easy with each other. How their friendships lasted lifetimes, outlasting wayward husbands and ungrateful children. Outlasted that time Alma caught Joe cheating and she whacked him on the top of the head with the sword he’d brought back from the war, but he told the people at the hospital he didn’t know who did it. Outlasted having to hide your medicine bottles in your shoes because, otherwise, seven of your nine children were liable to steal them. We miss how they seemed to judge everyone but themselves. Or maybe that judgment was in the “nerve” pills they procured from the Chinese doctor on Bay St. who didn’t ask questions. We miss their furtive cups of brown liquor on Friday and unabashed cries for Jesus come Sunday.

We miss their one gold tooth that made us wonder who they had been as young women. We miss their blue crabs, the shells boiled to a blood red in wash tubs atop bricks over makeshift fires built in the yard. The wash tubs reminded us of cauldrons, full of rock salt– and cayenne-drenched water bubbling and rolling, mesh bags of seasonings and halved onions and peppers floating on top, along with potatoes and ears of corn. We miss how they stood over those cauldrons like witches, stirring a potion. With sweat beading on the tips of their noses and smoke swirling around their hands and wrists, they wielded long-handled spoons to press the frantic, flailing crabs toward their deaths.

We miss how they made our Easter dresses and pound cakes and a way out of no way.

Deesha Philyaw, from “Snowfall” in “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia Press, September, 2020)


Notes:

  • Let’s rate this book as: “Wow.” And Highly Recommended.  Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Winner of the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award, and so deserving.
  • Kirkus Book Review: “Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”
  • Los Angeles Review of Books:  “Her characters create intimacy and have hope, not despite their ugly odds but because of them.”

Walking. With: “You thought I was worth saving…”

334 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk.  Dark Sky app reports 93% cloud cover. Hmmmm. 37° F, winds down. Well, that’s Something.

I inhale, hamstring biting. I ease into the front seat. There was a day, not so long ago, that getting into the front seat of the car was an unconscious act. Today, not so much.  Melissa Febos: What If The Pain Never Ends? “I understand that it will return, in one form or another, and that I will need the care of others, and I am determined, when that time comes, to meet it with gratitude and grace.”

Cr*p. No. I highly doubt that Me will show up. That Me ain’t here Today.

I snap a few shots at Cove Island (to keep the streak alive), and head to Calf Pasture Beach Park in Norwalk. The new Inspiration Point.

I pull into the park parking lot, normally empty. A small crowd building under a large tent. What’s This? Crowding into my time and space?  Ahhh, yes, Easter Service.

I steer wide of the gathering parishioners, like I might be sucked into an unstoppable power of God-vortex and his Believers. [Read more…]

T.G.I.G.F.


Notes:

Easter House Guest.

I just don’t know 🙂 … (Backstory here)

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Photograph: “Bob (aka Caleb) The Easter Camel” via Transglobalist
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

irrefutable evidence

Dogs
are
convincing evidence that there is a God.

~ Michael WadeRandom Thoughts: Brief Reflections and Moments of Clarity


Photo: Our Zeke (2007-2016)

Are you religious?

Easter, Passover, spring break, holiday weekend. Let us unfurrow the brow and look at something elevated. It’s a small thing, a half-hour television interview from 60 years ago, but it struck me this week as a kind of master class in how to be a public figure and how to talk about what matters…

Is he religious? Here Hammerstein told a story. A year ago he was rushing to work and jaywalked. A policeman called out; Hammerstein braced for a dressing down. But the officer recognized him and poured out his appreciation for his work. Hammerstein thanked him and moved to leave, but the policeman had a question. “He said, ‘Are you religious?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t belong to any church,’ and then he patted me on the back and he said, ‘Ah, you’re religious all right.’ And I went on feeling as if I’d been caught, and feeling that I was religious. He had discovered from the words of my songs that I had faith—faith in mankind, faith that there was something more powerful than mankind behind it all, and faith that in the long run good triumphs over evil. If that’s religion, I’m religious, and it is my definition of religion.”

~ Peggy Noonan, excerpts from The Wisdom of Oscar Hammerstein II (wsj.com, March 29, 2018)

Easter is calling me back to the church

I went to church on Easter Sunday last year, and never went back. It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an inability, week after week, to face the other believers…At church, all I could think about were the millions of people likely to lose their health insurance thanks to Catholic bishops who opposed the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I was supposed to be thinking about the infinite love of a merciful God, but all I could hear were thousands of Christians shouting, “Build that wall!” By the time Easter had come and gone, I was gone too…

In the past year, while my husband and his father were at church on Sunday mornings, I was in the woods, where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway. (And not just to me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor.

The year away from church hasn’t made me miss the place itself. I don’t miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the gleaming chalice or the glowing candles or the sweeping vestments. But I do miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.

So I will be at Mass again on Easter morning, as I have been on almost every Easter morning of my life. I will wear white and remember the ones I loved who sat beside me in the pew and whose participation in the eternal has found another form, whatever it turns out to be. I will lift my voice in song and give thanks for my life. I will pray for my church and my country, especially the people my church and my country are failing. And then I will walk into the world and do my best to practice resurrection.

~ Margaret Renkl, from Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church (NY Times, March 25, 2018)

 


Photo: Arnaud Maupetit

It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere

Choral music is not one of life’s frills. It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls. You express, when you sing, your soul in song. And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts. All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony. Which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself…that just to express, in symbolic terms, what it’s like when human beings are in harmony. That’s a lesson for our times and for all time. I profoundly believe that.And musical excellence is, of course, at the heart of it. But, even if a choir is not the greatest in the world, the fact that they are meeting together has a social value. It has a communal value. And I always say that a church or a school without a choir is like a body without a soul. We have to have a soul in our lives. And everybody tells me, who has sung in a choir, that they feel better for doing it. That whatever the cares of the day, if they maybe meet after a long day’s school or work, that somehow you leave your troubles at the door. And when you’re sitting there, making music for a couple hours at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters at that moment. And you walk away refreshed. You walk away renewed. And that’s a value that goes just beyond the music itself.

Of course, as a musician, I put the music at the heart of it, but all of these other values just stand out as a beacon. I think our politicians need to take note…my gosh do they ever! [laughs], and our educators, those who decide education budgets, church budgets, just need to remember it’s not a frill. It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere. That’s what music does for us. And choral music must stand as one of the supreme examples of it.

John RutterThe Importance of Choir


Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels

Easter

eggs


Notes:

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