This is the month where the grass greens up, the weeds come to life, the dandelions pop. Trees start to get the first fresh, yellow-green buds of their leaves– but first come the flowers.
There are flowering trees all over LaBelle. Most of them are those noxious Bradford Pears that look so lovely from a distance, but smell like rotten fish. But we also have redbuds; we have crab apples and cherries. We have glorious magnolias that drop petals so thick you have to rake them like leaves. Toward the end of the month, the lilacs begin to bloom, and their perfume takes us into May.
This is also the month for reaping what you began in the fall: April is the consequence of October. The bulbs that were planted six months ago are blooming now: the narcissus are nearly gone, but the tulips and hyacinth are out. Soon we’ll see irises. You can’t plant those in spring– bulbs need to freeze underground before they bloom. Gardening is all about timing, and reaping the consequences of your timing.
When Rosie and I went out to plant peas, onions and carrots, we found that last year’s compost was a perfect, jet-black loam. I’d worked hard at that compost. But I’d neglected to get the beds ready for spring planting, and we had a great deal of trouble digging them out. April is full of consequences.
On one of these warm April evenings, I went for a walk to admire the new green.
I walked in a different part of LaBelle than my usual route, to see as many trees as possible.
That was how I ended up walking past the “House of Prayer and Peace.”
That was the name of the house that the woman I’ve referred to as Sister Angeline gave her convent, after she left the one in Columbus to start a new “order” in Steubenville, with the charism of “spiritual direction.”
I have learned so much, since I wrote that previous post on Sister Angeline. I’ve met some of her other victims since then. It turns out that Sister Angeline wasn’t just a quiet person who got roped into the Charismatic scene; she was a ringleader, a narcissistic and abusive woman who gathered vulnerable people to herself for spiritual direction and counseled them into madness. She refused to believe that “He has not given us a spirit of fear” was biblical, and rejected the Gospel according to John as well. Sister Angeline was all about fear. She once drove a kind, quiet, humble religious sister with a learning disability into a full-blown anxiety disorder by harassing her over and over with the “message” that God had healed her and required her to take a “leadership position.” She would tell her “directees” she had a “confirmation” that every thought that went through their heads, no matter how insane, was “from the Lord,” and then she would get other “words from the Lord” to convince the people to do whatever she wanted. She would ruin people’s reputations by announcing to others that she’d had a “vision in a dream” that they were in mortal sin. She specialized in breaking up families– as she ultimately ended up doing to mine, and I will never see my mother again.
Sister Angeline does not live at the House of Prayer and Peace anymore. Her new convent only ever had one recruit, an aggressive older woman I’ve called Sister Justine. Eventually, the bishop shut it down. He disposed of Sister Angeline in a nursing home– not the usual retirement home for infirm sisters, but a different one, by herself. For all I know, she’s still there.
Sister Justine isn’t Sister Justine anymore; she’s gone back to what her name was in the world. For all I know, she still lives in the House of Prayer and Peace.
I tend to walk on other streets when I go by, but this time I didn’t.
There were the beautiful trees: a magnolia that shaded the whole front yard across the street, wafting sultry perfume that made the whole atmosphere feel thick. An oak, just barely getting its buds, dug awkwardly into the sidewalk with its ancient roots. There were the flowers– raggedy Narcissus almost all dead; the lawns a riot of white clover, violets and creeping Charley that are so much more beautiful than grass.
There was Sister Angeline’s House of Prayer and Peace, a source of so much strife l for so many.
Whoever lives there now has a cat– a box was left out for him on the front porch. Sister Angeline certainly didn’t have a cat.
I felt guilty, as though I was doing something dirty by looking at the house. I felt like a spy– like someone who had found out a terrible secret they weren’t supposed to know, and won a war because of it. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t feel sorry for Sister Angeline, whose House of Prayer and Peace had metaphorically fallen to dust and landed her in a nursing home.
But I also felt safe.
I went back home to my family: my husband and daughter and our raggedy garden.
April is the consequence of October.
(image via Pixabay)