The weather cooperated nicely with Easter yesterday. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The sun was bright, and warm, and unhindered by clouds. The air was dry and warm. Sounds of life buzzed through the still naked, but hopeful trees. Shoots of green stretched up from the dirt, yawning from a long, long winter sleep.
Easter is the celebration of new life. It is the birth of hope renewed. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is the quintessential image of the annual cycle of God’s redemptive process in creation. Pastor Mark, our senior pastor, reminded us, in his Easter sermon, that the resurrected life does not come with fanfare, in an instant. It is the slow, quiet process of growth. It begins in the silence of the seed pod breaking open and the unnoticed tomb stone rolling away. It is the hidden struggle of the sprout searching for the surface. It is the fragile and gradual struggle to become a seedling.
This morning I took my first walk in which I did not have to protect myself from frigid air. I walk all winter long, as long as the roads are not icy. Yet, there is something spectacular about the first day when I can walk without once having to brace against the cold air. Today was that day.
I have walked the same path for six years now. It begins in my suburban neighborhood, takes me along a bike path that lines the edge of a large shopping center, cuts through more suburban neighborhoods, through a magical little green space called the Wildwoods, and back to the rows of curving, un-sidewalked, suburban streets.
The section of path that runs along the shopping center caught my attention this morning. Nestled between the Grocery store, liquor store, bank, and Target, there lies a little pond. It might be fifty yards long. It is picturesque–surrounded by cat tails, flowers, green grass, and trees. Something magical happens to me every year as I walk past this pond.
It’s the geese. Each season the same thing happens. A handful of geese arrive in the Spring. They start off in twitterpated pairs, chasing each other around and across the pond. A few weeks later I see the cluster of yellow puff-balls roll out of the reeds and sputter across the grass. Each day throughout the summer I watch these goslings grow, always being sure to steer clear of the overprotective mother goose.
Today I saw the first pair. That’s when it hit me. This year, the cycle of this gaggle coincides perfectly with my Deep in the Burbs project. The thought came to me that I should take my phone with me on my walks and capture the process of this gaggle as it grows over the summer and into the fall. This would be a perfect practice of spiritual formation as I meditate on this cycle of life in the middle of a suburban setting.
There is great irony to this whole picture. The reason this pond exists is because of what it used to be twenty years ago. It is a hole in the ground, dug out by massive industrial land-moving machines, for the purpose of extracting the hazardous waste produced by burning old car tires. Yes, this picturesque spot used to be a dump. In fact, large parts of Andover sit on top of a massive, toxic waste dump.
Humans desecrated this natural beauty once. Then humans extracted the waste, repositioned the dirt, filled the hole with rain run-off water, and surrounded it with centers of capitalist consumer exchange. Yet, through it all, a gaggle of geese continues to mate, reproduce, migrate, and return.
What does this mean? I don’t know. One thing I do know. I intend to use this gaggle as a focal point of my attentiveness to what God is doing in the suburban context. I hope to reflect on this process through words and images over the next several months.
Easter is the celebration of rebirth and restoration. The geese are back. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!
(I made a video of this walk back in the fall of 2012 for my catechism students)