Easter and the Ass

We tend to skip over the part that despair plays in the passion. My ponderings started with a donkey.

A donkey meandered into town, carrying a man on her sturdy wide back. I imagine she would stop and bray and sniff the air for food. She was not pretentious. She didn’t mind accepting the generosity of others. She was an ass after all. But nobody, not anybody, could tell her what to do. She would walk at her own pace. Today, she didn’t mind sashaying into town. She swayed her hips comfortably, carrying such a lightweight of a dude. This passenger was no armoured soldier and no muscled farmer; he was a tall listener and a slender talker. Words are light even if their consequences are heavy. And he never kicked her in the ribs once. Her legs were short, his legs were long, so his toes brushed along the ground. Every now and then he would chuckle to himself and give her a little pat on the neck.images

She started to understand she was an actor. She was playing a part in his greatest parable yet. He was heading into the climax of his living breathing story, a true performance artist. Her function was to get him from entrance to exit and she was to be a symbol for “humility”. At first it smarts. She didn’t sign up to be made a fool of. Okay, okay, she is not a beautiful lithe beast, she is not notably intelligent and has no particular remarkable tricks, she is not a pure bred anything. But to represent the opposite of glorious…?! Well…she is embarrassingly well cast. She sighs. But after a few miles of thinking about it, she finds some humble pride in being useful. And, she must admit, she kind of loves being chosen.

Humility itself had a function. Salvation has always been depicted as a prince who would come riding in on a white male horse with a gilded saddle, flaring nostrils and significant genitalia. Move over, you huffy and puffy Arabian prancer. Today it’s the donkey that gets a person into the kingdom…and it isn’t the kingdom of commerce, trade, politics or religion…it’s the kingdom of peace…anyone, I mean anyone, can be delivered from spiritual anguish through the courageous act of Love.

This is what I think about in church this passover weekend, the donkey. Everyone is given a palm leaf and we wave them and walk around the sanctuary while the choir sings. At the pulpit, Pastor Dan talks about war and small efforts amounting to much and he says, “Call me a dreamer, but I believe in world peace”.

After church, Fellow sidles up to me and whispers, “Do you think Christ sinned when he said, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I say, “No. To be human is to sometimes despair. If Christ didn’t despair he wouldn’t understand us.” Then he goes over to the candles to light one. Ah. To light one for his colleague who committed suicide. He was a first responder who had seen too much horror. In the business they call these guys “dark clouds”.  Unknown

We go off to munch iffy pizza together: the urban form of “church picnic”. Someone spreads out a blanket on the short pile carpet and children, the elderly, parents, awkward teens…we all sit and chew the cheesy cardboard while my daughter plunks out “Ode to Joy”, teaching it to the caretaker lady who hits the keys far too hard over and over and over and my daughter has the delicacy to suggest that perhaps they let the lesson sink in and try again next week.

Later that day there is a baby shower for Leora Joy and Scott. She is glowing all lovely and ready to pop. Scott has the “impending” Dad expression. You know the one. The eyes are just a little wider than usual. I make a chocolate cake (with an icing fail, and the Mom to be is gluten free – oops! But no matter) and then I have a cast dinner at the home of Aaron Bushkowsky and Diana Anaid. He’s one of my playwright heroes and he has one of my favourite quotes about writing for the stage. “Plays are about a change of heart.” Simple and true.

We sit down for a glorious feast and he pours some wines from around the world, some ridiculous, some generously deeply lavish, some cheerful and cheap. I make a gorgonzola pear fig and proscuitto tart (a bit runny but no matter – keep pouring the wine!) My fellow comes to get me and says a little “hi” to my friends who have heard so much about him, they grin with familiarity. And when he tries Aaron’s mushroom soup he goes all “private face”. As we leave the house I slip on the rainy steps and turn my ankle just enough to be a bother: my fellow goes into immediate action, lifting me home and plunging my joint into a bucket of ice water while he runs out with all the nuisance of getting my car and a change of clothes and so forth.

Then fellow laid out his uniform and pulled out his shiny black shoes. They are giving his colleague a line of duty funeral: recognizing his despair was connected to PTSD from his job. I’m glad for the sake of his family for this dignity.

While I sit on ice, the children asleep, my belly is full of terrific food. I rotate my numb thick ankle between arctic plunges, I feel a bit of an ass…braying…in the middle of this present story full of momentary despair and acts of love. I chuckle to myself, staring down at my short legs. Now I have a turned ankle on the left and a skinned knee on the right. What a beauty. At least there’s leftover tart.images-1

A friend texts me. She is in distress. She suffers from severe depression. She had said to me once that small acts of love keep her living. It’s hard to know what to say when someone struggles to find the will to live. I send her off a love note…I fear it isn’t enough…why can’t I find the words? I wish I could transport her to that day when a slender storyteller rode a donkey into town. I wish he could touch her dear face with a living breathing hand and tell her he understands. Easter is coming. Kingdom of peace.



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1 comment

  1. Jason Goode

    So good.

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