New buds on cacti bloom slowly.
Unfortunately, these new buds aren’t the end of our original story. As it turned out, the cactus at the end of our street–the one that the winter storm had damaged, the one that they pruned back to a wooden stump–got ripped out of the ground shortly after. The winter storm had damaged it beyond its ability to produce new growth. Or at least, the ability to produce new growth quickly enough for it to still be deemed worth saving. I wonder if it would have grown, had it been given more time.
Other cacti near our apartment fared luckier. Despite the shock of the cold, despite having to shed dead pads, spiky, spring-green growths soon began to pop up all over them. The death had given way to new life, to growth.
This is the crux–the cross–of Lent. That through death–Jesus’ death in particular–we experience life. The resurrection–anastasis. I’m not necessarily sold on any one theory of atonement other than this: it is a great mystery. One I want to spend my life exploring and meditating on. Mostly because, to me, it’s not just an abstract piece of theology that we celebrate on Easter. Resurrection is experiential. I’ve felt it in my own life, too, lately–flowering little by little, prickling my skin, making sure I’m awake enough to notice it.
It started, I think, with a road trip.
Sick and tired of waiting to get my COVID vaccine, and not seeing any signs of being able to get one in Austin any time soon, I made an impulse mid-week road trip to Abilene, Texas, my husband and our dog in tow, to get my first dose a year (to the day!) from starting quarantine. Something about driving along the open road to get the vaccine we had hoped and prayed about for a year struck me as the beginning of a new era of life, of freedom. And since, then I’ve been seeing that freedom, that resurrection all around.
We ended up taking road trips for each dose–it became a fun, bi-weekly activity over the last couple of months, driving along country roads, marveling at all the wildflowers–new life!–that grow in Texas hills in the spring: bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pinkladies, evening primroses. During those weeks, I also started seeing a new therapist and recently began working with new therapeutic techniques, which has been challenging but also promising. I stopped my old ADHD meds, and began new medication that’s been giving me way more energy and a better mood. And lately I’ve been writing myself a routine first thing every morning, which has resulted in a far more balanced life that includes more of my personal goals, like writing daily, going to the gym, reading more, and getting outside. Jack, meanwhile, has started grad school for a Master’s in data science, which is new and exciting and will provide him (and by extension, us) new and better opportunities.
Perhaps one of the things that has experienced the most resurrection is my writing life. The stress of the first few months of this year had me in creative paralysis. But no more! I’ve been able to take up a more regular writing routine. I’ve plotted more of my novel, found new threads and even characters to explore, and patched up some pesky plot holes. I’ve started to revise my short story. I’ve had writing sessions with my dear writing pals, Kerry and Maddison. I’ve found my favorite local coffee shop to write in and had a couple writing sessions there. This past month I joined a local writing community, Fresh Ink, which will hopefully serve as a place to forge lasting creative relationships, better my writing, and learn about the publication side of writing (once I make the revisions and work up the courage to get to that point). And finally, today I finished setting up my very own writing nook–a private stretch of wall in our guest room with room for a desk, and a chair, and some art, and fake potted plants I don’t have to take care of, and lots of inky black pens. It’s a creative haven waiting for me at the end of my work day. It’s a space just for me, one I’ve been waiting to have room for for years. It will be a space for new creative growth.
Not all resurrection feels as joyful or as uncomplicated as my writing life, though. My spiritual life has been showing signs of new growth, but it’s felt slow, sporadic. Mysterious, even, which sounds beautiful, and it is, but it also means I’m becoming aware of how little I know or control, and that is damn uncomfortable.
But there have been more frequent pockets of joy and encouragement–in joining an antiracism book club my cousin led with her church, and meeting some older Christians and church leaders who are committed to learning and unlearning, racial reparation and healing. In learning about the Celtic Christian tradition and their saints, church mothers and fathers who beautifully embodied deep love for Christ and deep connection to their culture, to their land. In reading books and listening to podcasts that lend me new insights on the Bible, theology, and Jesus. In the practice of radical acceptance–I need to acknowledge and accept that my faith will always be changing, that it will never look exactly the same as it did when I first began believing, or even when the pandemic started. Even if sometimes felt less complicated back then.
Because I been disoriented. I have been letting go of what is dead. And now I am experiencing new life: flowering, fresh blooms on a cactus. A personal spring. That is resurrection.
The cactus on the corner is gone now, but in its place is empty space for something new to be planted. I dream of great green succulents. In resurrection, I dream new dreams. Small dreams–meeting new friends, submitting a short story for publication, auditioning for a choir or a show, volunteering at a garden, going to church in person. Big dreams–finishing my novel, buying a house, making a family. Those dear, near-impossible, fearfully enormous dreams that surprise you with their ferocity–moving to Ireland someday, going back to school, publishing my book, traveling the world. All buds, all growing right next to each other, blooming pink and sweet, crowded together onto one growing plant.
In resurrection, there is room.
Current Novel Word Count: 16,690 What I'm Writing: Outlining the plot for my novel, developing characters. Working out the middle, essentially. Revising my short story. Weird Writerly Topics I've Googled Lately: Ireland environmental developments, does private land sale require a notary, can people in the US notarize property sale deeds from Ireland, at what age can you own a home in Ireland, timeline of becoming a nun, nun vow of poverty timeline Writing Exercises I've Done: Nothing lately. What I'm Reading: Blew through Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Currently working on Things in Jars by Jess Kidd and Freeing Jesus by Diana Butler Bass. What I'm Listening To: "I Know the End" by Phoebe Bridgers, "Seventeen" by Sharon Van Etten, "Orinoco Flow" by Enya, "Running With the Wolves" by AURORA.