My Pittsburgh son haunts thrift shops, collects old rosaries, hangs them on nails down cellar, near his bathroom door.
Buried with their best crystal rosaries, crocheted among their fingers, all those old ladies trouble me when I consider how their every-day rosaries were taken by their daughters to be entombed in gold, pasteboard boxes,
until years later when the daughters were readying for their move to Florida (for the sake of the mover’s bill) lightened their load by donating the darker contents of their dresser drawers to Goodwill.
The title of Scott Cooper’s debut film, Crazy Heart, comes from a song by the movie’s protagonist, a country singer named Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges). At 57, Bad is an alcoholic and is shut down artistically, but he’s still working the road and hanging on. The song alludes to picking up his crazy heart and giving it one more try.
She’s on life support. Racing to get there, his Jaguar fishtails on the frozen highway. She was a beauty and elusive as the future, his mother, usually traveling on his birthday.
He felt he couldn’t fly, had to touch dirt every inch of the way. To fly would be to unpeel too fast the onion of his hurt.
She’d call. He wouldn’t answer. He was busy.
Now it’s ice he notices, gray molars locking to dark bluffs, the way ice locks his heart in steely winter logic. Then sun shimmers on ice, the lock breaks, and love flows. Relief, oh melting! as he steers toward his mother.
Here’s your Ash Wednesday story. A mother carries her tiny daughter With her as she gets ashed and the Girl, curious and wriggly, squirms Into the path of the priest’s thumb Just as the finger is about to arrive On the mother’s forehead, and the Ashes go right in the kid’s left eye. She starts to cry, and there’s a split Second as the priest and the mother Gawk, and then they both burst out Laughing. The kid is too little to be Offended, and the line moves along, But this stays with me; not the ashy Eye as much as the instant when all Could have been pain and awkward But instead it led to mutual giggling. We are born of dust and star-scatter And unto this we shall return, this is The Law, but meantime, by God, we Can laugh our asses off. What a gift, You know? Let us snicker while we Can, brothers and sisters. Let us use That which makes dark things quail.
Between 1990 and 2010, Iowa lost over 500 churches. The numbers reflect migration from rural to urban areas and the fewer number of people who identify with a faith community. The decline in churches is having a direct effect on the social fabric of the state. According to research at Iowa State University, nine out of ten rural people said they rely less on their neighbors than they once did. Surviving churches have gone back to older patterns to find leadership, engaging itinerant pastors or lay leaders. Some are surviving through cooperation with other denominations or with ethnic Christian groups (Pacific Standard, January 20).