A Little Resurrection

A Little Resurrection March 26, 2024

a nest outdoors on fresh grass, overflowing with shiny colorful Easter eggs
image via Pixabay

Things were bad, and then they were wonderful. This happens more and more often lately.

It’s been one of those months where nothing goes right. First the Twitter ban, then the sickness, finishing the desperately needed car repairs with cash that should’ve gone to something else, asking the landlord for another week (which he graciously granted). Adrienne found that her bike tire was flat. Then Michael caught another head cold. We ended up at Palm Sunday Mass late, missing most of that awkward first Gospel, and there were no seats.

On the way back, we stopped at Kroger for some necessities and found that they had already put all the Easter chocolate on clearance, and the Cadbury mini eggs that Adrienne likes best were gone.

I cringed, because I hadn’t gotten any Easter chocolate yet. I hate waiting until the last minute; I like stocking up. I would stock up on Easter treats when they first put them out after Valentine’s Day, if I could. But stocking up is not always possible.

Jimmy the mechanic came by in the evening with a plastic cup, asking if we had any coffee to spare for morning. I cringed again because I didn’t have coffee grounds, but I had a pitcher of cold brew, so I gave him two mugs’ worth to heat up. I asked if his boy could come over this week and help me plant peas and onions, since he loves the garden so much, and Jimmy promised he would.

Monday morning, I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone wanted to send Adrienne some Cadbury chocolate since we were having a hard time.

I went outside, to get the garden ready for Jimmy’s boy, and for spring.

The compost heap had turned into a mountain, and it wasn’t warm like it should be. I’ve gotten lazy. The proper way to make compost is to layer your ingredients. You’ve got to start it off with a pile of kitchen waste that’s almost entirely vegan: coffee and coffee filters, lettuce stubs, broccoli stems, apple cores, leftover rice and bread crust. A few eggshells, now and then a single small chicken bone, but mostly plants. You put that down and cover it in cardboard or a big pile of grass clippings. Next time you empty your compost bucket, layer some weeds from the garden or some more grass clippings on top of it or tuck it under the cardboard. Throw the guinea pig litter that’s nice and filthy on top of that, then add more grass. Keep building it up like a lasagna but never layer the food waste on the top. Food waste on top leads to flies and smells and rodents. If you always top it off with cardboard or grass, compost doesn’t stink. It doesn’t attract pests. It warms up feverishly hot, it gets run through with the roots of mushrooms, and it turns into soft black and brown soil that will feed your garden for the year. But this wasn’t a pile of feverish black compost, because I’d given up on adding the kitchen waste to it and there’d been no grass to mow. It was just a cold pile of guinea pig litter.

I attacked it with my shovel.

I hacked and hacked at the pile, spreading out the top of the heap. I got down through the strata to the piles of soaked cardboard layered with last year’s garden waste, and I broke up the cardboard like the crust on a pie. I found those cornstalks from last year’s grasshopper evening. They were nearly rotted away, thin and floppy like reeds. Under the cornstalks was the real compost, a year old or more, red-brown and black, thick and lumpy and smelling alive. This was soil. Soil is not dirt. Soil is a living thing, made out of dead things, out of which other living things grow.

I filled two wheelbarrows with living soil and  dumped them over the freshly cleared patch. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.

I spread out the compost with the side of my shovel and weeded the strawberries, throwing the dead grass on top of what was left of that compost heap. Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled death, and to those in the tombs he granted life! 

I plotted where to put down more cardboard to expand the garden. I want a front yard patch of sunflowers to surprise the whole neighborhood this year, a jungle of sunflowers, mammoth gray stripe and autumn beauty and lemon queen, orange and yellow and red, a sunrise painted in living things. This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

I started fantasizing about the impossible daydream that I carry in the back of my mind: the one where I win or inherit millions of dollars, pay off my student debt, and buy a house. I think most American Millennials harbor the same dream. I’ve been pretending about it for more than a decade. Except that this time, the fantasy wasn’t about a house in Columbus where I grew up, or a mansion in Pittsburgh near Frick Park, or an organic farm in Greenbriar County where my ancestors lived. It was a much more economical fantasy, of buying this house from the landlord and fixing it up to be pleasant. Replacing the dank wood paneling with gypsum. Replacing the drab carpets with snap-together bamboo. Fixing that rig job where the PVC bathtub drain pipe sometimes falls off the original metal pipe from the 1920s and drenches the kitchen. Modern windows.

I’d no longer like to leave here.

I went inside, where I found I’d left Facebook open and I had several messages.

The mother of the Baker Street Irregulars— not the Lady of LaBelle but her daughter, who is ten years younger than me and often poorer– was messaging. She gets food stamps and I don’t, and she has so many little ones that sometimes she gets a glut of groceries on weeks when I have none. She saw the green light next to my name and was confused when I didn’t answer right away; she kept messaging, “Hello? Hello!” She was making Easter baskets for all six of her children and wanted to throw in one for Adrienne so she didn’t feel left out. She had meticulous questions about what candy she liked, and how to tell it was gluten free.

Moments later her mother was making sure I was taken care of as well, asking if I wanted a turkey.  She’d have to dig it out of her freezer, but we could have that turkey. If not for Easter than for after Easter, whenever we needed a turkey.

I thanked her. I gave her the list of gluten safe treats.

I said that if I did end up with money before Easter, I wanted to make all her children cupcakes or cookies.

Yet again, as it has so many times lately, there was the realization that I was at home in Appalachia.

Not with the people I thought would accept me, who never will, but with other people. Not the meticulous Catholics in the “rich” side of LaBelle but the locals who are more like me. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried to be what I wasn’t, for the sake of people who don’t want me, and when I gave up, I found people I like.

It’s taken so much agony to get here. It’s eaten so very much of my life. I’ll be forty in seven months, and I am starting to be happy for the very first time– right here, in the place that’s felt like a prison.

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

I am rising up as well.

That’s a little resurrection, ahead of Easter Sunday.

 

 

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

 

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