Thursday, March 28, 2013

In 1974 I was in a cult in Colorado. That spring our leader announced that we would celebrate a Seder (Passover meal). This ritual meal celebrates the miracle that finally released the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. 

Some of us knew about Moses and the plagues he brought upon Egypt; the ultimate plague was death for all first born male children and animals. The angel of death passed over the houses marked with blood of the sacrificial lamb.

Tirzah, a Jewess, headed the project. She sent us out to collect items we’d need: yarmulkes, the small head covering for the men,  the Haggadah, the order of service and text for the evening, the Seder plate, which displays the symbolic elements.  It became a physical and spiritual treasure hunt. 
photo by Robert Couse-Baker

 Reuven, the Jewish man taught us the songs in Hebrew.

The cult leader wanted to take us one step deeper into tradition -- the ceremonial slaughter of the sheep. The man assigned to slaughter the lamb was tall and burly. He had a thicket of a beard, and long curly hair. He’d come from a hunting, woodsy background. I thought of him as Paul Bunyan.  

 The leader told him to go to the Kosher slaughter house to learn the methods for the ritual killing and referred him to Exodus 12, where God gave Moses the original instructions.  I went home and read it. 

photo by Miss Steel
"Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old...the
whole assembly of  the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the lintel of the house in which they eat it.
And they shall eat the flesh that night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs."

Tirzah kept us on task, checking off items on her do list, until our preparations for the Seder were accomplished.  Behind our rented building, the men dug a pit large enough to hold a whole sheep. The fire in the pit died down to hot coals so the meat could be roasted as required. 

We stood in a circle between the building and the pit. We could feel the heat from the coals, smell the sheep’s wool, and hear our feet sliding over the gravel in the driveway.  “Paul”  held the lamb between his legs, its chin in his left hand. It was as tall as his knees.  Few of us had hunted or seen an animal slaughtered. I expected the animal to be kicking and bleating. But it stood quietly, without apparent fear, as if it trusted its handler, which may be the nature of sheep. We stood quietly too, but I felt a small tremble of fear for the lamb. Or was it fear of the slaughter? 

"Paul” hefted the blade lying near his foot. He examined the special knife. It was about eighteen inches long, unpointed. He ran his fingernail over the blade to make sure that it had no nicks which could tear the throat of the animal.  Satisfied that it was sharp, he closed his eyes and spoke a short blessing. Then he took a deep breath. The muscles in his arm bulged as he gripped the knife and bent down over the head of the sheep. He would not stab the animal, because the goal was to kill the animal quickly, cleanly, and painlessly. In one forceful slice he severed the trachea , esophagus, and jugular vein of the lamb. As blood poured out Reuven caught some in a basin.  Paul continued to hold the lamb while its front legs buckled. Then it sat on its back haunches, and eventually, its chin lay on the ground.  Reuven took the basin, dipped a branch into it, and painted blood up the right side of the door frame, over the door, and down the left side.   

We filed in and left the butchering to Paul and his team.  Sobered by the sacrifice of the lamb, we worked quietly. I was awed by the way the lamb had died, almost consensually, without struggle. It had folded itself as it would in sleep, without protest.  

The death was the purest thing I had ever seen. 

I understand it more fully now.  In Acts 8:32 Jesus’ disciple describes him:
“He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Because of that sacrifice, we have a contemporary “passover”. When we ask Jesus to forgive us our sin, and “cover” us with his blood, the angel of death passes over us. Passover prefigured Christ's death and our salvation.

Go celebrate! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sprigs: Vinca


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't Ignore That Bump to the Head - Brain Injury Awareness

I am all for good causes, so I note that March is National Women’s History Month (go, Amelia Earhart! ) and National Frozen Food Month (bring on the ice cream). But National Celery Month--not so much.

As March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, this is the time for "the talk." I  want you to know that brain injuries are more likely than you think, and many go undiagnosed until symptoms get increasingly severe.  

Aww, you think. What a downer! Yep, it is, but because brain injuries can happen “anytime, anywhere, anyone” I want to warn you.
We all know that car accidents can cause traumatic brain injuries (tbi). But did you know that for kids under 14, and adults over 65, falls cause 50% of all brain injuries. (source: Centers for Disease Control) While falls can’t entirely be prevented we know it’s only wise to wear helmets when exercising on anything with wheels. And we boomers can prevent falls with regular exercise, minding home safety, and getting adequate calcium. 

What we don’t realize is that sometimes what appears to be a minor injury, isn’t. A  neurosurgeon described the brain like jello, and if it gets jostled, it is easily damaged.  A new acquaintance recounted how her college age daughter had fallen from the upper bunk. Shortly after, the girl started having difficulties with balance, and keeping up with her classes. 

“Did she have a tbi?” I asked the mom.  
“Yes! How did you know?” She was eager to talk.

Having been through my own daughter’s injury I recognized the symptoms, and the isolation this mom felt. (more details in my two January blogs on “Regret”)  

Which brings me to my second point. If you are dealing with the results of a brain injury, FIND A SUPPORT GROUP! Talking with other parents that understood why I felt sad, frustrated and powerless helped me persevere through my child's recovery--and learn to cope with the deficits that might be irreversible.

So, play safely and don’t ignore any bumps to the head.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sprigs: planters

Starting today, I will write a short post every Tuesday. (My main post will be Thursdays.)

The Tuesday selection will be subtitled Sprigs, and be related in some way to gardening.

If you have a drill, or even a nail and a hammer, you can turn any container into a planter for your garden. 

I found this trug at a discount store (wish I'd bought 3 or 4). I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and added a shallow layer of rocks. Then I filled it with dirt, and now have two seasons of flowers planted in it. 

When the daffodils quit blooming I'll put in something short and bushy for the summer.  Plus there are miniature gladiola corms left in it from last year, so they'll add height. 

Looks good, too, don't you think!

There are lots of other ideas on the Better Homes and Gardens site link .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tactile Pleasures

I continue this week highlighting some of the tactile pleasures of Antigua created in stone, tile, wood, fiber--and food!

Certain people are more tuned into textures than most of us--a potter knows clay is ready to mold by how it feels. As a knitter I take the texture of yarns into account when planning garments for fit and fashion. Clothing designers use the nubs, slubs, and weaves of fabric to achieve specific design goals. (As an example, I recently saw a stunning garment that was made of peacock feathers!  Click on the link) Architects choose building materials for their practical and aesthetic effects. 

The focus of my trip was to revisit the ruins of the church of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza, built from 1731-1736. Because it's stripped of all art, the focus is on the shape and style of the buildings. And, because much of it collapsed during the earthquake in July, 1773, the inner workings of the walls and ceiling are exposed. Some of the old plaster on the walls remains, but the under-layer of bricks and mortar is exposed. You can see the contrast between smooth walls and bricks laid to create arches. Look higher, and the ribs of the pillars remind me of why architects call them ribs in the first place. 

A plain-fronted church built in 1457 in Ciudad Vieja  is enhanced by the beautifully curved and carved wooden doors. 

Created 500 years later, there is an abundance of modern art in the park at Santa Domingo el cerro. Clown figures dance across a curved wall of their events pavilion, and toss three dimensional rings. The colors and images are pleasing and the small pieces of stone catch and reflect the light in a way that gives movement to the art.

And since we're next door to the restaurant, el tenedor del cerro, I might as well talk about the sensual pleasure of lunch.  I sat at a small table on the deck. My dining companion was a volcano. The food was delicious and again, texture played a part. I bit into the pesto-marinated shrimp pizza, and pulled the slice back to take a closer look. Firm toasted pine nuts added a new dimension to my palate. 


Last of all, I want to highlight the textiles again. Look at the handmade hats in the photo and imagine how  it would feel to stroke the finely braided brim.And the embroidery on the huipil, the traditional blouse, mimics the shape of the flower petals. 

These lovely and finely crafted pieces are available at Mayan Boutique, Esperanza Hernández /Edgar Martin Perez, 3rd street #5 "D" Antigua Guatemala,

Look around you today as you're out and about. Pay attention to the textures that add interest and depth to the spaces and objects around you. 

Were you a child with a silky blanket? What appeals to your sense of touch: the feel of corduroy? smooth melted chocolate?  crunch in your peanut butter? popping plastic packing bubbles?  

Enjoy them, and share!