Early Spring 2020: We were hugging and singing in church. I met with couples to talk about weddings. People ate lunch in restaurants and there was two-ply toilet paper at Trader Joe’s.
Then the pandemic. We were sent to our room (or was it our tomb) to think about what we had done. We learned to do church on-line. I preached my first live-stream sermon sideways via the iPhone of a well-intentioned volunteer.
We all remember early pandemic stories about how we couldn’t find what we needed. One day, our dog Sara skipped breakfast. I thought she was sick so I took her temperature. She was fine, but when my husband Hugh wanted to take his temperature, I told him that our thermometer might have been up in the dog’s bottom.
He asked me to get an untainted thermometer so I went on a quest. All thermometers in every store were gone. Amazon too. And that’s nothing compared to what we really lost –time with loved ones, touch, safety, well-being, and certainty. I hold my breath and wonder how did we manage?
Now it’s a year later. Here in Southern California, the numbers are trending in a good way. Maybe it’s time to resurrect….and I know a thing or two about resurrection.
Because every year, in our backyard, Hugh and I undergo a rebirth passion play with our two ancient box turtles, Carolina and Duke. They live in our outdoor aviary with our birds, rabbit, and guinea pig. During the winter we let the turtles hibernate which means they burrow and disappear.
Imagine having a pet that you don’t feed. No bananas, canned dog food, or red worms for months. Their first hibernation 26 years ago was stressful. I dredged up the turtles often, as if to bellow “HOW’S THE HIBERNATION GOING?” Later I read that well-meaning humans should leave them alone.
So I learned to trust, but just a little.
Each Spring, the temperature rises, and Duke comes out looking for food. Carolina doesn’t appear. Every year I worry about her. “Is she gone forever?” I wonder. “Why isn’t she hungry? Did she wind up in the compost bin when I cleared the soiled hay? Is it possible that she tunneled out like the guy in Shawshank Redemption? Will we ever see her again?”
One Spring I asked the Practitioners at my church to pray for her safe return. Kim gently asked, “Rev. Bonnie, do you think maybe Carolina has instincts that could POSSIBLY help her reappear when the time is right?” “Maybe,” I replied. “But right now I’d prefer to worry.”
Eventually, Hugh and I go on a crusade to find her. We dig deeper than we think we should and find her in a savory hole of her own making. Buried under a pile of birdseed, hay, and rabbit poop, she emerges, slow-blinking at the light, perhaps a little irked by the crude awakening. (It’s hard to read the mood of a turtle). We stick her in a warm bath with Duke and wash off the debris of winter.
There’s a metaphor in here….
Most of us lost something in 2020. Some of us lost loved ones. Many of us lost innocence. Perhaps all of us hibernated in a hole of pandemic uncertainty.
Then I think of the Springtime joy of Carolina lumbering from beneath the soggy hay. I feel the resurrection. I hear the wisdom of Practitioner Kim who reminds me of life’s intelligent longing to live; and Rumi who says, “love so needs to love that it will endure almost anything, even abuse, just to flicker for a moment.”
Carolina’s triumphant return reminds me that brokenness is misperception. An unrelenting wholeness encompasses everything. Wholeness changes form, trans-forms constantly, but no matter what, it remains wholeness.
Birth causes death and death causes rebirth. Pandemic loss causes pandemic gain. Because through the pandemic, maybe we resurrect appreciation for the ordinary things we once took for granted. Maybe we remember what matters most. Maybe we embody the fullness we could only find in emptiness.
So now, it’s time to wash off the debris of 2020 and soak in the warm bath of faith, faith in life, faith in the pandemic, faith in the wholeness that hides in the illusion of brokenness. In these extravagant waters, we honor what we lost. Then we dig deeper to celebrate what can be found in the eternal gift of everything.