Well, I don’t even know where to start. There is just TOO MUCH going on, people! First of all, today is Opening Day! My Boston Red Sox kick off the season at 3pm against the Phillies, which means I may actually be able to follow the game, allowing for the time difference. Hoo-rah.
Then there’s this: April is National Poetry Month! Thanks to the incomparable Summer Pierre for reminding me of that, and for featuring poetry and its power in one of her amazing comics. (Hi, Sum!) Let us all allow ourselves some poetry over the coming month.
And lest you think baseball and poetry don’t have anything in common, think again! For my money, the most poetic thing written about baseball is not a poem at all, but John Updike’s famous, gorgeous New Yorker piece about Ted William’s last at-bat at Fenway Park – a home run. If you care about baseball or the craft of writing it is worth your time to read the whole thing, but here’s a little taste:
Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.
If that last line doesn’t give you chills, well, there’s just no helping you.
And then, in addition to all of this sporting and cultural excitement, it was Easter weekend. Easter Monday is a holiday here in the Netherlands. (For a strongly non-religious nation, they have a relatively high number of religious holidays.) My hubby and I ventured out of Amsterdam and headed to Maastricht, a lovely little city and the capital of the Netherland’s southern-most province, Limburg. How this little spit of land sandwiched between Belgium and Germany even belongs to the Dutch is beyond me, but it does. It maintains its own regional language (Limburgish) and is a strongly Catholic region.
Being there over the Easter weekend gave us the chance to see some of the Catholic roots and rituals first hand. A long Good Friday procession wound past our hotel, featuring several drum corps. Marchers carried large prints of the Stations of the Cross and statues of Jesus. Priests and members of the religious societies walked throughout the town before ending at the local parish. It was a bit strange to be observing the whole thing, to be honest, instead of being part of it, which is what I would have been doing at my own church had I been back in Boston.
I also missed spending the day with family or friends. Easter has been the most fluid of my holidays, in terms of tradition. During my childhood it was Church in the morning and then family – one grandma’s house for breakfast and the other for dinner. It was new outfits (usually the same as my sister’s, just a different color), and family pictures by the birch tree. In Boston, it was Church (Episcopal, by then), and brunch with friends. It was a new outfit, and champagne and mouth-eggs and shared cooking and laughter. And in recent years it turned back to family, usually with my in-laws. Last year we were in New York with my family. It was the last holiday we had before my mom’s death in August, although not the last time we were together.
The loss of my mom isn’t something that I’ve shared much here; in many ways the grief is still too near. But maybe in light of the loss, the only thing to do was to have an Easter unbound to any tradition. To almost let it go unobserved, as a way to recognize that things have changed – are changing – and that we do not yet know the shape they will take. We instead have a year with no ritual, no traditions – we let it pass, but not unmarked, not forgotten. And we wait to see what will happen next.
I’ll leave you where we started. (No, not with baseball, although the Sox have already scored in the time it took me to write this post.) I’ll leave you with a poem I love. It is a poem about Easter, about grief and doubt and joy and the long journey we’re all on. To steal from the poem’s ending, “Long flight, soar freely, spiral and glide in the empty air.”