It is a cool afternoon here by the river; a steady wind from the north has been blowing downstream since mid-afternoon yesterday, and I wonder why everything here isn’t somewhere on Cape Cod. It’s a bit late in the day to be doing this, but when one has to be at Mass long before Mass begins because you need practice, well, things get put aside. Now, the time seems to be good for this little exercise. I’ve finished lunch, folded the wash, actually two washes, and conducted a fruitless search (again) for something I’ll need for a trip we are taking in June.
There’s only this, and, maybe, a nap.
Spring has made itself seen and felt around here with usual brightness of day, softness of showers and sound of courting birds for the past week or so. We await the first tulips blooming in our little plot out back. Yesterday afternoon I listened to a lonesome cardinal in a nearby tree calling someone, anyone, in his cardinal world to come and make his life complete. There were at least a dozen other cardinals in trees on both sides of the river with the same idea. Poor guy, he sang his heart out, and got nothing for the effort. He won’t give up, though. I admired his persistence and his pluck, and hoped the best for him and his bachelor buddies. There are no cardinal monasteries they can enter. There’s no vocations to celibacy for them to follow. Nature bound, they must find a mate and obey. Nor can they will to do anything else, like deciding they identify as something, anything other than a lonesome male cardinal, or running away with the fellow one tree over.
Above them all yesterday, high against the clouds two hawks slid effortlessly down the wind and back again for at least twenty minutes. Cloud coasters, sky surfers, catching the invisible air waves; I watched them and thought of angels and Icarus.
It’s too wind washed today though, both sky and nearby trees, for a lonely gang of cardinals or a lazy pair of hawks.
It’s quiet in this room. All I hear is the clock on the wall, and all I see in the afternoon sunlight are the crab-apple branches shying from the wind and a chickadee or two darting into the azalea bush before dashing to the feeder just outside the front door.
It was a century ago this day in Dublin when the Easter Rising against British Rule took place. The “lads” all met a swift end in the Post Office, or a few days later against a wall. I saw the marks the British bullets made and put my fingers into the holes. It was Easter Sunday, a century ago. My father was just “gone” three, with his mother and father in New York City, and I wonder what those two thought might be coming for their families home if the British got their blood up over it all. There was Dick Fanning, my grand-uncle who fled his mother’s house, and up and over hills to hide in Kilkenny. And all I knew of him I first learned watching his sister pray for him when I was little.
But, then, perhaps the Sassenach invader couldn’t devote too much thought to it all, caught up as they were in the slaughterhouse across the channel in France, and a crumbling empire.
The only things I know about that day a century ago I learned in the songs we all sang when I was younger; songs of the long years of trying in the sad and often desperate tunes of wild colonial boys, rattling Thompson guns, orders from the captain to get ready quick and soon, the sad fields of Athenry and the hope behind it all; that Ireland once again a nation be.
It isn’t, yet, after eight hundred years. They got most of it, to be sure, to call their own again. And the rest? Someday, God willing, the four green fields will together bloom.
What took place in Ireland then was preceded by a greater horror only a year before, the great murder of Christian Armenia by the Muslim Turks, the the decaying remains of the Ottoman Empire built on the corpse of Byzantium. Until today I hadn’t known the two events were only a year separated, and I’m walking around wondering at the woe both people suffered; only for the Armenians much more horrible for its scope and swift brutality, I suppose, at the hands of the Turks than the long woe of Ireland under the British yoke. It was thousands, perhaps a hundred or two thousand transported away from home by the British over a few centuries, and four million starved to death in the Great Hunger, while beef and pork and poultry and corn and all the great produce of the small green land went across the Irish Sea to feed the landlords, and the farmers ate grass and watched their wives and children die..
But for centuries the Armenian people, the first Christian nation, suffered slavery and worse at the hands of their Muslim overlords until the effort to do away with them completely began with the arrest and imprisonment of several hundred scholars, and spread with enslavement, rape, crucifixions, death marches and slaughter. Spread in a word with all of the honored cruel methods of population control used for so long in the Middle East.
Not much has changed. It happens today.
Today is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a town in Germany. He became a martyr in Switzerland where he had gone to preach. He once wrote: “What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside, leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain? It is living faith that expresses itself through love.”
Think of him when next you hear of some Christian being castigated for telling the truth about their faith, for “casting aside” the luxury of silence before error, or worse being martyred for being a Christian.
The Fields of Athenry is a song about a young man sent away from his family because he tried to feed them: The Fields of Athenry
This is a song from Armenia. I don’t know the words, but you can guess, and I do not think you’ll be wrong: Armenian Song