18 April 2006

Embers of Glory

The church year is like one of those fancy fireworks I see at the Fourth of July. Not the whole show but one sort of rocket.

It fires off in September with a thunk, leaping into the air with the urgency of a cannon. Midway, Christmas time, it explodes and we all say “ooh” and “aaah,” but there’s more. It keeps on going even after the first display, and then explodes again at Easter, with more “ooh” and “aah.” Then it sputters and though there are a few fizzly bits, it’s like a balloon you fill up and let go, which as it gets to the very last actually seems to speed up.

The last of the big chrysanthemums exploded on Sunday. Easter arrived. The music was fine, the people abundant and I think my words suited the occasion very well. Tough words, they were, but good ones. I should probably start a fourth blog to hold the corrected versions. But that’s another day.

Now, the year begins its sputter toward summer. Soon the weekenders will begin to leave empty seats. They overlap with the snowbirds who leave in winter. Our Sunday School is moving toward its end, and all the unfinished tasks, heeding the unofficial closing bell that means ‘school’s out’ for everyone.

It was cool on Sunday, and again yesterday and today as well, but now it feels exceptional not normal. I am glad not to hear the hiss of the radiators daily. In a month the whirr of the AC will be the background noise of daily life. We bought some hosta seedlings to plant, and a few lone daffs and tulips are appearing in the front yard. The contractor is back on our roof, so the back yard is a litter of old shingles. The great stump of the tree has been partially ground down and I have free mulch for anyone who wants it. Give me a call.

Work is already about fall and the next season. But I am transfixed by nostalgia right now. Each aroma of spring takes me back to years past. I catch olfactory images of my boyhood and young adulthood, now harder to find as my nose gets older and less acute. I am also thinking about my one sabbatical five years ago this spring, when I had four months of travel through Europe, starting in Italy in February and ending in England in May.

We were in Paris for Easter and it was cold and damp. We spent the morning in the cimetiere Montparnasse, a good choice and not far from our flat. We lived in a borrowed and barren two room apartment. Not even a frig there, just a milk box outside our bedroom window in the cold shadow of the tiny inner courtyard. Our evenings consisted of reading while listening to BBC World service. How I miss the music, a jolly march named “Lilly Lulay” or some such thing. I got quite invested in a soap opera for a while.

But the cemetery was a marvel, not as gothic as Pere LaChaise but well appointed with notables and their grand tombs. We paid calls on Alfred Dreyfuss, Felix Bartholdi (his best work was the statue outside our apartment window) Emile Zola (I think?) and Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Good company on Easter I say. That afternoon we met fellow expats who actually lived in Paris and spent the evening with them. My sons and wife were glad to have someone else to talk to.

It is still so close, as close as the smell of moss on the tombstone and the feeling of mud on shoes and the hide-and-seek of the sun and clouds on a chilly spring day.

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