My mother-in-law sent my daughter a card that said “Happy Pass-Easter or East-over?” Somehow a year has gone by without me somehow establishing a cohesive, concrete faith for my family- for my daughter. It is going to be weird enough for her, having two moms; I guess I somehow hoped a religion would help her fit in somewhere.
My wife was raised Catholic and we are both practicing Buddhists. I was raised religion-less except for celebrating the major Christian Jewish holidays and I guess my Iris will be having both holidays like I did.
Last year Iris was born just three days before Passover. She was only as long as the Seder plate and Easter flew right past us because we were so focused on our own little bunny. This time of year, however, always feels especially Pagan to me. I can hardly be bothered with food dye or plastic grass or church or matzoh and wine. The place to be is outside. The thing to do is plant flowers and vegetables. And of course listen to and watch the birds. In my Seattle yard it is Robins, of course, Black-capped Chickadees, Gold Finches, House Finches, Red-winged Blackbirds, Stellar’s jays, Cedar Wax-wings, and Anna’s Hummingbirds.
Our big blue home is spacious but because we live near the center of town, we have only a tiny yard in the front and a little yard in the back. Our neighbor has tons of tall-growing bamboo to the south which leaves virtually no sun for our property. The summer after Iris was born last year, I was forced to grow my peas and tomatoes on our second-floor deck but I had to lug the water through the house – and it was a mess.
So this year I had my wife build a small half-circle raised bed in exactly the spot that gets the most sun- about five hours a day. Both last year and this year I was shocked by my desire to nurture baby plants. Didn’t I have enough to take care of already?
On Seattle’s first day of late March sun, I planted two kinds of snap peas and two kinds of lettuces. The second I came in from my planting and smugly shook out my gloves and brushed off my shoes, the dark clouds came rushing in five minutes later- pummeling my garden with hail. Such is Seattle spring, the ultimate tease
The first sunny day of April, two weeks later, I brought home starts for broccoli, chard, parsley and one small strawberry for Iris because my neighbor Ilse’s pots of tiny strawberries were the pinnacle of my Los Angeles childhood summers.
I went into the carport to fetch my canvas bag of gardening things: gloves, shovel, weeder, seeds and brought it to the veggie bed in the front. My friend Reed told me that while babysitting Iris in my house the day before, two gigantic spiders had crawled on him so I dumped the entire bag out instead risking a spider crawling up my arm as I reached in.
I was shocked and terrified to see a beautiful bird’s nest fall out; along with two very small peach-colored eggs. One of the eggs immediately broke on the grass. I felt a tiny bit better when I leaned closer and saw that it was just a yolk and not a formed bird. Then I tried to lodge all of my things (except my small shovel) and the nest back in my bag as close to original form as possible and I put the remaining egg in the nest.
I returned it to the carport, broken hearted and crying because I was sure the mother bird would abandon her egg. I had messed up her home and killed one of her babies and contaminated the other with my human smell and human microbes. I’m sure the situation would have been sad to anyone, but I was a new mother. I was a new mother who dealt with scary medical issues with her baby this year. I was a new mother whose pregnancy was difficult and I knew how much work it is to make and prepare for your babies.
I went online and did an extensive egg photo search and learned the nest I had disturbed was from a Tree Swallow. I then looked up whether a swallow would abandon the nest if you touch the eggs. I was able to breathe again when I read over and over that she would likely still sit on the egg.
I focused a short meditation session where I visualized mama bird working diligently at re-organizing the nest and warming her precious one little egg. Then I kicked myself. I remembered the mindful way I wish to be in the world, the slow and conscious and deliberate way I want to parent. What if I had been just a tiny bit more mindful and just peered into the bag before I dumped it out? What if I hadn’t had a fear of surprise spiders?
I went back outside. Karolyn and Iris watched me plant the rest of the garden from the living-room window until all of my bed space was taken up. I found a peanut that a squirrel must have buried and I did a funny squirrel dance for Iris, making her laugh.
I thought about the fact that just the day before, Iris had learned a favorite new word: “egg”. Her favorite toy from her 1st birthday party was ceramic blue robin’s egg in a little box with the letter “I” on it. She can’t say the soft “e” sound yet so she just says “ggh ggh, ggh, ghh!” with glee.
I’m sure Passover and Easter this year will be great, but I have already had my spiritual experience; it was out in the garden. I will forever see this time of year differently: the one egg as a symbol of a new life on Passover as the Jews left a life of slavery and the egg on Easter, a new life for Christians because of Resurrection. For me, the egg is now just about Mamas and Babies.
I do feel tempted to dye eggs this year, but in real colors, in homage to nature. Blues with brown spots, light browns with dark brown spots, rust-colored like those belonging to a Wren, or light peach, like a Tree Swallow.