Monday, March 29, 2010

Ends and beginnings

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
(from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Four Quartets")

On Sunday afternoon I took a spade to the Virginia clay to the garden in front of Antonia's house, and in four or five quick thrusts I uprooted a cluster of lavendar. The plant's silver-green leaves shook the fragrance of memory into the spring air; I hoisted it by the roots into the dark trunk of my car. "In France they grow this by the field-full," she laughed, remembering a post-university adventure; I thought of my mother's garden.

Antonia had called me earlier in the day-- she, David, the triplets, and her mother are leaving for Slovakia on Wednesday, and they're packing, clearing out the house, and tying up loose ends. Most people in her situation would probably not give a second thought to their garden plants--but Antonia is not most people. She had planted her gardens from seed and couldn't bear the thought of abandoning them to their fate. As the sun sank towards evening, I churned up the rocky red soil in the front of my own house, carving out a new home for her lavendar, her daisies, her sage.

* * *

It is Holy Week, and it is spring. A good time for ends and beginnings, I think. Antonia's triplets--Bronte, Lukas, and Aiden--will first experience Slovakia as a world of beginnings: slowly-greening mountains, black gardens pierced by tentative sprouts, and flocks of wandering sheep punctuated by the bleats of newborn lambs. They will awake to their first Slovakian morning on Good Friday, when the Cross of Christ turns up the soil of our hearts, churning us out of our complacency, loosing the deep-rooted sins that snake through the soil of our lives. And then they will listen, watch, and pray (as much as one-and--a-half-year-olds can) at the triumphant Easter celebrations, when we revel in the verdant fullness of Christ's resurrected life and its promise to those who are faithful, who believe.

* * *
I am experiencing the peculiar yet familiar blend of gratitude and sadness that always seems to attend farewells; the fullness of relationship and the emptiness that physical distance brings. Let us continue to pray for this sweet family; I will let you know how things go with their house. (As of right now I believe they have raised about one quarter of the funds needed to build their house; help is still appreciated, I'm sure.)