See, it’s not sweet youth that touts a wildness, but crazy old age. Beauty shifts. Plump pink petals fall away, or stay, curling every which way, like stiff, unruly hair, dried to a deep blood-red.
The once-upright congregation- in-a-vase flops over, losing their heads, but that’s all right. They find another life in unconventional gesture, extravagant dance: this still troupe, ecstatic, with nothing left to lose.
All winter the fish lounge at the bottom of the pond squinting up now and then toward the cloudy light beyond the ice, but mostly skulking behind cold wet shadows like teenage guys down in the basement hanging out, waiting for life to happen dreaming elongated nursery rhymes feeling the submerged sluggish vibrations of the earth a faint quiver of the moon’s pull on the tides.
After Easter, though, they dopily drift toward the surface where I am waiting patiently with something like civilization in mind. Sooner or later they’ll make the connection: they get their daily bread from me. And in return I get a glimpse of their elusive grace, their perfect freedom organized into evening ritual.
The Austrian picture The Counterfeiters, which won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign film, dramatizes yet another little-known story of the Holocaust. In “Operation Bernhard” the Nazis assembled a select band of prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and put them to work producing counterfeit versions of the English pound note and the American dollar bill.
Diablo Cody won an Academy Award for her screenplay for Juno, and it’s true that the film bubbles along on the strength of the snappy, frank commentary that Juno (Ellen Page) offers on the travails of being pregnant at 16.
Did Jesus Christ ever have an erection? John Marks poses that question to his Christian friend Craig Detweiler in the film Purple State of Mind, which is showing in limited release and available on DVD (see www.purplestateofmind.com). As the title suggests, the film is about what happens when red-state and blue-state types mix it up.
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).