Today is Valentine’s Day, and it is also Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Since my family didn’t follow Lent, I am uneducated in most biblical protocol and did not know that the observance of the forty days had begun. Last night, blissfully unaware that I was serving up a Fat Tuesday dinner, I tucked a simple roast with salt and pepper into the stove. We dined on roast beef au jus, yorkshire puddings and green beans. And finished off the cheesecake. The leftovers were spun into meager meals today. While my conscious mind spent more time thinking of Valentine hearts this morning – loving hearts, happy hearts, young hearts, broken hearts, forgetful hearts, grateful hearts, newly in love hearts – my unconscious mind seemed to know it was a holy day. Despite being sick with a cold, I had the strong desire to visit the lake which is a very peaceful and spiritual place for me.
It’s where I cry and ask for forgiveness.
It’s where I contemplate the puzzles of the universe.
It inspires my artistic eye. I’ve photographed the creek and the great lake, along with their surrounding fauna and flora. I’ve painted its misty shores and written about its mystical ways. And today I picked up rocks and pebbles to paint into rock art masterpieces with aspiring artists.
It’s where I seek solitude and solace.
It’s my happy place where my dogs romp and play, their tails wagging. Dogs do indeed smile!
It’s where my body is rejuvenated with walks, runs and bike rides.
It’s the spot where my soul connection to God seems the strongest. Even when I am elsewhere – inside or out – I envision meeting God on an eastern crest which reaches out above the waters. If I were an artiste, I could paint the scene from my mind’s eye.
The idea of earth, air, fire and water have been swirling in my mind since discovering I have a Grand Cross in my birth chart (See Day One ). Visiting the crashing waves and blustery wind with a cold didn’t really seem like a good idea, but I craved a dip in the frozen lake, even if it was just my fingertips. No polar plunge for me.
Leading the dogs down to the shoreline, I let them off their leash so they could run wild along the icy shore. I knelt to place both of my hands in the sand to allow the waves to splash over them. My fingers tingled with the frigid water, but I felt refreshed.
The three of us walked along the shoreline … the dogs scampered ahead to play tug of war with their sticks. Annie, my beautiful Husky mix, braved the cold water. It was three years ago today that the final decision was made for her to join our family. I thanked God for this blessing.
I had promised a certain someone that I would pick up shore rocks. As I walked, I selected nine rocks which caught my eye. They were all I could fit in the flimsy plastic bag I had stuffed into my coat pocket at the last minute.
With a whistle to the dogs, we turned around to retrace our steps along the shore, crunching over ice, snow, rocks, sand and water. The naturalized shore was a steep cliff that we couldn’t climb safely. The wind howled and whipped my hood away from my head. The bitter cold drew tears out of my eyes and lashed my cheeks. It wasn’t a long walk, just one with purpose.
I wondered how to bring fire into this mix.
While heading home, the radio announcer mentioned Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, a season of forty days, not counting Sundays. While Lent is not practiced in the Bible, the forty days and nights are synonymous with Christ’s time in the wilderness to fast and resist temptation. It has become a time of reflection, repentance, recommitment, renouncement. It is a time for fasting and self-denial or a time for service, self-reflection and prayer. It is a time to be aware of our mortality.
We are encouraged to find our own spiritual path back to God.
What wrongs do we need to right?
Contemplate what is our purpose? Why has this life been given to us?
To give thanks for all that we have. By fasting or denying ourselves a treat, we can give to someone else in need.
Hungry for more history, I dug up the meaning of the ashes. Why is this Wednesday in ashes? It symbolizes the dust from which we are made. Stardust. Churches burn dried palm leaves to create ashes.
So there was the fire that I needed to light today, but it wasn’t a palm leaf. I don’t have any of those.
I had my earth … the rocks which I cleansed and sanitized, plus a sprinkling of salt of the earth.
I had my water … my rocks and fingertips were bathed and dipped in the lake.
I had my air … the icy wind and my warm breath. Inhale and exhale.
I had my fire … I wrote one sentence for Lent on a small slip of paper and burned it over a candle, creating ashes.
I will practice my observance of Lent in private.
Regardless of your faith … Isn’t the coming of spring a wonderful time to reflect, resist, rejugvenate, reposition, repent, release, rediscover, recharge, redirect … be better at something for the good of all of us? C’mon … there must be something you wish for and could be doing better? I can’t be the only one who makes mistakes. Try to be a better person until Holy Saturday, March 31.
After a fleeting rendezvous with Mr. 1969 for a shared kiss and a card, my heart was happy. I prefer to do without too much chocolate, overpriced roses and expensive dinners in busy restaurants. We will make up for it on another evening once I am well, since being romantic comes easily for both of us. I am sure you can purchase roses for a song this weekend! There is something so intimate about seeing eachother’s handwriting and appreciating the message meant just for you. You are the other half of my heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday!