These midwinter days that bridge Epiphany to Lent can seem anything but ordinary as the steady waxing light reflects across old December’s glaze of ice, a biting wind hisses across the stark bones of the bracken, and treetops signal sparse against a sky expecting still more snow before nightfall. Scarlet and speckled birds announce themselves about the brightness of the holly, spray from the creek creates bright frosted chandeliers among the tangled overhanging branches, and dusk draws down its spangling of stars so crystalline they lift the eye— heart too—toward a principality that banishes any vestige of routine predictability. Ordinariness exists—if at all— within the desiccated soul, too distracted by its fearful self to notice.
The Mayan Empire existed for 4,000 years, from 2500 BC to 1500 AD, and it spanned five modern-day countries—Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. Mayan civilization made significant strides in astronomy, agriculture and architecture, and it prided itself on its colorful art and skilled artisans.
So near to evening, thoughts against thought will run,   unsettled in currents: fish, aswim down suddened light.   Upon the bank, I’ve slowed to discern the turn toward night in the songs of birds. Even water itself is by dark undone.
Trees and road, hill and distance—all coaxed into one.   Stern shapelessness, I cannot place myself. Wouldn’t know right so near to evening. Thoughts against thought will run,   unsettled in currents: fish, aswim down suddened light.
like this, then—boat that drifts for the shore, done   with floating blind. At the edge of my vision, a white   something. Sand bar? Rock break? There’s not enough sight to say. Will I learn at last how much such doubts have won? So near to evening, thoughts against thought will run.
Near chamomile and rosebud potpourri a pair of porcelain camels rest, bit players glazed and unaware of this faux Nativity. Peasant extras lift their silent, pleasing prayers with seasonal adoration. None harbors signs of panic: no goats or stable maids, no wise trio, those dazzled star readers bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh. Not the puzzled carpenter from Galilee. Not the curious shepherds, nor the virgin exhausted still from her spotless labor.
These figures encircle a barren trough. Where have you gone, O lost Christ child? In truth, the Messiah’s size is the stuff of legend: he’s been abducted. (No Ascension- Come-Early before the ministry begins) Not much bigger than a packing peanut, the babe’s become an object of devotion, begotten for those tenacious paws’ wild swatting or mouth that totes the Savior in haste. We spy the vacancy and know the culprit: fat Larry, golden pear and roly-poly cat,
that ring-tailed and recidivist felon. Regular brigand of the infant Son, he mocks this fragile coffee-table cast. We joke that his is a holy commission, converting birthplace to an empty tomb, Bethlehem yoking the born and risen. Each time He’s someplace new: laundry room or water dish. Under chair, in basement, unknown manger now. And still His grace and tiny lacquered limbs feel ever present, embodying their reliquaried space.
For nearly 75 years, travelers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike could pull off the highway and walk up the steps to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church to pray or attend mass. The church features rich wood and hand-carved accents, a beautiful staircase to a loft, and 14 Tiffany stained-glass windows. But the days of the “Church of the Turnpike,” 90 miles east of Pittsburgh, could be numbered. A highway widening project is under way that will permanently remove the legendary steps in two or three years (RNS).