Its been a while since I blogged. That’s certainly not for lack of material about which to write! on a personal level, Mark and I have been very busy. We took a bucket list trip to Greece. We traveled to England, where we attended a beautiful wedding, saw a couple of plays in the West End, and walked the white cliffs of Dover. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with our kids and granddaughter. We have gathered to delight in the company of friends and mourned the passing of others. Our lives have been full and busy.
The broader world hasn’t been still, either. Our planet has grappled with the Omicron variant, which a year ago I would have guessed was a Clive Cussler novel. Many of us have gotten booster vaccinations; others await their first doses, and still others refuse to see what the problem is here. We’ve learned how to Wordle, if that’s a verb. And now, of course, Russia has cruelly invaded Ukraine, bringing us closer to a third world war than I can remember being in my lifetime.
I think Mark’s shirt, which is pictured below, says it all. Dang.
In the midst of this whirlwind of activity, though, some things remain the same. On Wednesday night, for example, Mark and I attended Ash Wednesday services at our home church, First United Methodist Church of Austin. Ash Wednesday services usher in the liturgical season of Lent, which is a time of self-examination and repentance. As you can imagine, then, Ash Wednesday services are not exactly jubilant. Their highlight is the imposition of ashes, where the congregants walk up to the minister and have a cross made of ashes traced onto their foreheads. Interestingly, if you’re into this sort of thing, the ashes are the burned remains of the palm fronds used at the previous Palm Sunday services. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
Here’s another tidbit for you, though: palm fronds are the dickens to burn. I know this because Mark and I tried it. As usual, I instigated the shenanigans. We were in Spain, surrounded by lots and lots of lovely palm trees. (FYI, palms are not native to Spain; the Moors brought them from Africa.) If we were not able to attend church in person on Ash Wednesday because of Covid, wouldn’t it be cool, I said, to have ashes from the palms here? Mark, being a sport, agreed to give it the old college try.
Putting the venture together was actually not that difficult. We found some palm fronds that were already down – no palms were harmed in the making of this fiasco – and had a cigarette lighter left by a long-ago tenant in our apartment. We found a metal bowl and cut off pieces of palm to put in it. Piece of cake, I thought. I took the bowl out on the balcony and put the flame to the palm frond pieces.
We tried everything. We cut smaller pieces and bigger pieces of palm. Nope. We tried matches instead of the lighter (Because the fire might be different? I totally don’t remember why that seemed like a good idea). Nil. We tried different bowls and blowing on the frond pieces and arranging them in a teepee shape. Zilch. I tried singing a song I learned in Campfire Girls in 1965. Nada.
I don’t recall how, but we finally got the edges of one piece of frond to burn for about six seconds. The resulting ash wouldn’t remotely have been enough for the upright of the cross on one forehead, let alone two crosses, but we were over this venture by this point. I packed the ashes away in a pill box, and we cleaned up the evidence of our folly.
So we didn’t have our own ashes last year, and I honestly don’t recall whether we were able to get them in church. But here’s what I did learn: those fronds are tough. Try as you might, it’s hard to reduce them to ashes, to destroy their basic structure. And in the midst of yet another crazy, stressful year, I’m hoping that I’m like the fronds – tough, unwilling to break down easily. In fact, I’m hoping that for a lot of people: the Ukrainians, the folks who are sick (yes, there are still a lot of them) with Covid, the people who are grappling with the losses the last few years have brought. There are a lot of them – of us – to be wishing that for.
So that’s my fondest wish for you today, dear reader. Or maybe I should say its my frondest wish. Right now, they are one and the same.