But in Tolstoy, just as in Plato and Plotinus, the thought of death is accompanied by a particular sentiment, by a kind of consciousness that, even while horror rose before them, wings were growing in their backs.
- Lev Shestov, "A Letter to His Daughters"

I'm a likable cuss, but I'm also a melancholy man.  It just is.  So the season of Lent is hard for me.  I love it because it's dark and moody and full of paradox...but if you live off to the side anyways, forty days of the melanc-holy can do a number on you.  All of a sudden you look up mid-March and you're in extremis.  Easter does come and you ring 'dem bells but if Jesus should see his shadow, then you've got six more weeks of winter which takes you into June and well...

I know we're all encouraged to be tolerant these days.  But there are some things I cannot abide.  Sorry.  One is a claptrap faith, full of the pretentious nonsense of nothin' but sunshine and wrapping everything up in nice red bows and the fabled Mary Poppins's harmless first period.

At the same time, I'm learning to be intolerant of the opposite but equal trap within myself: that life is a tragedy best lived in the valley of the shadow of despair with occasional weekend trips to the vale of tears.  Basically, Lent all year long.

That quote at the beginning?  I found it while reading some B.H. Fairchild poetry.  He's one of my favorites.  I've met him, heard him read his plains pastoral.  I haven't the foggiest idea who Lev Shestov is...I guess he had some daughters.  I'm familiar with Tolstoy (glorious beard where eagles could nest) but Plato and Plotinus are, to me, just quotable dead men.  But sometimes grace speaks from the living and the dead.  In this case, I was startled by that particular sentiment - wings were growing in their backs.

Those six words have kicked up a new consciousness within me about Lent, one that just might help me make it thru the night. With every step down the forty day via dolorosa, wings are growing in my back. I believe they're growing in yours too.  But the ding-donger here is that I can't see my back.  I may be able to feel some feathery emergings, but I can't see them, at least not in the early days.  Nor can you.  So I guess we need each other in these days in the wake of Ash, huh?  Friends, soul friends, anam caras to say well merciful heavens, I do believe you're growing wings.

Something to look forward to even while the horror rises before us...  


  1. Beautiful! And helpful...I've always tended toward the melancholy, too, and I'm nearing the first anniversary of the death of the last of the family that reared me. Ashes to ashes to wings. I think I'll make it after all.

  2. MarieDee,

    Thanks for stopping by...grace for your days ahead...I think you'll make it.


  3. I'm trying to stifle the Mary Tyler Moore Show chorus in my head. But I think it's true. We make it, after all. By the blood.