Easter Sunday, 2013
Quite an ecumenical day, emblematic of the rather schitzo state of my life and psyche, as I made my way from my erstwhile home to my ersatz home, with some– but not all –of my belongings (and sanity).
I began the day in Crestone, with Aarati (a hindu ceremony), then visited a monk next door at a Zen Monastery. From there I drove to San Luis, Colorado, where Easter services were just letting out at the Catholic Church, and where I had decided to prayerfully walk the stations of the cross across the highway, scattering the rest of my mother’s ashes as I meditated on forgiveness and liberation, or prayed for help, depending on the angle of the razor’s edge beneath my sandals.
This walk snakes up a little butte crowned by a chapel (and a gift shop). Up the path I carried camera, water, and ashes (now refreshingly scented with rosemary I’d sealed in when I last visited this tin of powdered mum). At each bronze enactment of this Passion play, I placed ash on the Christ’s feet, and pressed my ash- covered hand to his heart, and “anointed” his brow, redeeming body, heart and mind, for Mum, for the ancestors, for myself, for all hapless and miraculous humanity. I let myself feel and know (and love tenderly when I could) the way these stations are reflected in my own ongoing walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
The valley below me was comforting contrast, as it blushed a hint of green and promised fertile season if the Maxfield Parrish clouds littering the blue above would sublimate their dreamy loft into drenching rain. The hill itself, a pointilism of cactus, rock and cedar, all but camouflages the sculptures to the unfocused eye, though not to the subtler senses, which can pick up the the man-made lines and thought-forms, emotions, projections and pretense inherent in the dramatic images.
Biblical quotes accompanying each scene carried moving pathos, but also the distortion and shrinkage that so plagues conventional Christian scripture. At Station 4, where Jesus meets Mother Mary, Aunt Mary and Mary Magdalene (always the hardest for the patriarchs to manage), I sympathetically witnessed another pilgrim puzzling aloud over the conspicuous incongruity between the reportage and the scriptural interpretation.
I will skip the play by play of today’s walk of a path on which each of us is always at or between one station or another. I will fast forward the travelogue beyond the climactic happy-ending to the denouement.
After Christ ascends, the San Luis pilgrim has the option to walk down to a nearby grotto and debrief with Our Lady of Guadalupe, who, though a much simpler statue, is more colorfully bestowed with the loving leavings of petitioners. It was she in whom I more frankly confided the deficiency of faith that made my prayers to her seem poignantly pointless, and absolutely necessary.
It was not until I’d almost reached the bottom of the hill again, and I was comparing the white ash in my hands to the white pigment spelling out San Luis around the side of the hill above, that I made a connection. Luis = Louis. Louis was my mother’s father’s name. Her father had been a talented, artistic man frustrated by human frailty. My mother claimed to have never forgiven her mother for succumbing to the manipulative tendrils of her own mother’s apron strings, and forcing her husband to base himself in tiny, podunk Como, Mississippi, rather than in cosmopolitan Memphis, where he and my mother would have found fellowship and stimulation. He could not buck convention and extricate himself, and, as best I understand, ultimately imploded and died relatively young.
Internalized rancor may well have contributed to the early (and in my mother’s case, lengthy and ruthless) disease course in Louis and both his daughters.
My mother may have held him as a martyr in the situation. I gather that the historical St. Louis was a 13th century French King, who, aptly, among other things supported art and intellectual innovations in his day. Though a Christian and a Crusader, both anathema to my mother’s inclinations, he was also a Patron Saint to pursuits that lead her out of the provincial prison of her origins.
And here we were on a walk of forgiveness with Mother in the oldest town in Colorado, founded around a church, and named for St. Louis. Such sugar drops of synchronicity may dissolve quickly, but twinkle in the foggy dark night like Tinkerbell: a hint of order, a memory of laughter, a murmur of meaning, a flash of hope, a rumor of redemption.