April, Wombs, and Tombs

Lovely April! I delight in watching remarkable flowers growing from bulbs, poking out of the soil, delighting me with their beauty - daffodils, tulips, narcissus! All speak to me of resurrection during this holy season.

I clearly remember when someone told me that if I were to cut open a tulip or daffodil bulb before planting it, I would see the whole flower stored there; stem, leaves, bloom, and I recall being amazed. In hindsight, after years of learning more about our rare and precious planet, I am embarrassed by that. What did I think I would see?

I’ve learned that bulbs are like wombs, holding the essentials for a new season of growth, containing everything a plant needs to survive the cold and return to life in spring. From the outside, no one could guess the miracle that will come forth under the right conditions.

When I think back at my naivete, I am reminded of how I bought into the thinking that we and Earth are two not one; that we are made “by God” rather than “of God”, that what is sacred is “super” natural, rather than natural as sacred.

Flower bulbs remind me of a related awareness emerging about our traditional burial practices. It now goes against my grain to think of embalming with formaldehyde and methanol, increasing Earth’s chemical load. It strikes me as mindless to take what is biodegradable, put it in a metal casket and a concrete vault to resist decomposition. These seem like final insults, reflecting a lifelong alienation from creation.

How wonderful that “green burials” are becoming more common. Imitating the planting of a bulb is a great alternative to cultural burial practices. My experience of this occurred a few months ago when an SSND friend passed. As a science teacher and deeply spiritual woman, Joann had integrated her oneness with creation. She intentionally spent her remaining bits of energy designing and sewing her own cotton shroud and showing her Sisters how to wrap her in it. Just as she planned, on the day of her death she was buried directly in the ground in our SSND cemetery. As a last act of communion the gathered community placed fresh pine boughs on her body to facilitate her return to the land she loved so much.

I have to wonder how our planet would be different if all of us embraced our earthy reality every sacred day and at the time of death. What do you think?

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La Vista Ecological Learning Center

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Godfrey, IL 62035

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A Ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate