This is the week when Christians focus on the resurrection story, with its themes of atonement, sacrifice, forgiveness. As one who was raised in a Christian - Roman Catholic - tradition, I'm always aware of what Holy Week stands for to so many people.
Resurrection. Rising from the dead. A return. Rebirth. There are so many ways to look at this idea, at this story of a holy figure killed, buried, alive again. Spring, the return of green, glowing plant life. Reincarnation.
Who didn't panic at the beginning of this pandemic?
Who didn't worry they'd lose someone they love, get sick themselves, die?
An entire year of being on high alert has ravaged our psyches, our blood pressure, our ability to take a calming breath. We've locked ourselves away, argued with those who forgo precautions. But vaccines! There. There is our chance to resurrect our lives, retool our relationships, re-emerge into the world with a heightened awareness that how we live is by no means permanent.
Vaccines rolling out during the Lenten season. Prayers called. Science answered.
I'll get my first vaccine on Good Friday.
On Monday, an unseasonably warm day for Minnesota during the month of March, I walked our very old dog around the yard. She no longer wants to go for long walks. She prefers to meander, sniff, sniff some more, perhaps sample the latest trail of rabbit poop.
Sometimes I get impatient with her slow pace, frequent requests to go outside. Then I feel bad, remember she can't help getting old. None of us can.
We thought she was going to die over the winter. She contracted pneumonia, has age-related problems with tracheal collapse, suffers incredible anxiety. She can't hear anymore. An emergency trip to the veterinary teaching hospital at the U of M, a few new meds, a switch in an old one, and here she is. Still with us. A dachshund who returns from the brink time and time again.
Who's to say she isn't holy?
In our yard, I've found signs of new life everywhere. Tiny bright green leaves emerging from winter's packed-down cold dirt. Sparrows and chickadees battle for the birdhouse that hangs in our crabapple.
A coal-black squirrel has appeared; he or she crosses the power lines dividing our backyard from our neighbor's every morning. Sleek, beautiful, the only one. A few blocks away, there are several pure white squirrels. Also beautiful. Also rare.
The squirrel who peeked through our patio door a couple weeks ago was the standard-issue gray. And bold. I took his picture. He (she?) made me laugh.
What have I done to deserve another miraculous spring?
In Wales, there's a mountain called Bwlch Mountain. I had to look up how to pronounce Bwlch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2uh-nWateM). But that isn't what I want to tell you.
I want to tell you about the yellow heart on the side of Bwlch. A woman named Bev Johnson, who lost her mother to COVID in January, came up with the idea of making the yellow heart out of stones, of putting yellow flags up for those who have also died from COVID. The BBC did a story about it: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-wales-56491961. This woman's effort to make something out of her grief has offered others a way to honor theirs as well. To remember their dead. To come to terms with loss.
There will be no rolling back of these stones to reveal those lost to COVID risen again. And yet, those who remain are still filled with love. The yellow heart they've made beats as surely as any red one inside of any one of us.
Yellow is such a spring color. It's the color of chicks and daffodils and some tulips. It's the color of marshmallow Peeps and egg yolks.
Sometimes it's the color of hope.
This fight, flight, or freeze sensation that we've been feeling since the early part of 2020 may ease up now with the possibility offered by all that's shifted the landscape: COVID vaccines, a new president, the end of winter. Bright yellow sun has come further north, its rays showing us that there is more to do. More to share.
Endless ways to remake our lives.