Meditation In A Time Of Social Isolation

There was in the place where he was crucified a garden…

Unexpectedly, this week, I have found myself seized now and again by joy. It is always small things: out walking on Monday around noon, and there were two little girls zooming down the sidewalk on their tricycles with their Mom laughing in pursuit – it looked like such fun. Stepping out my back door between emails to a clear blue sky. Our grandson Jamie’s glee on Easter Sunday: what was in those Easter eggs he found in his back yard? “RAISINS! RAISINS!” The quiet as David and I go for an evening walk. Each time, that gladness, even in the midst of the pandemic.

There is a mystery here: that this time of the virus, when we know suddenly that death is real and that our lives are not after all in our command; that this time of the virus should yield these moments of blessing.

It is, I venture to say, the virus that has done it. Not deliberately, of course, in itself. The function of the virus in itself is to infect. It has shut us down. 

And yet – here is the mystery, the intimation of Easter – the virus has not only shut us down. It has in some sense opened us up. It has become also (if we will only heed it; if we will only remember, when things are back to ‘normal’) a pointer – a paideia, as the Bible calls it, a discipline, a discipline of teaching by which our God may draw us to Himself. 

The shutdown of our bustling lives has opened up space for quietness, for a humility in which we may recognize that we are not masters of the universe, or even of our own lives; that there is one who made us and whose making is good. 

This, too, is the day the Lord has made. It is not that God has sent the virus, but this: even the tomb in His hands is a garden, and he is – Mary sees it – the gardener.

There is much more to say, about how the quietness reveals to us also the ways in which our lives are awry, far from the garden for which we were made. That I find such blessing in the sight of families together, for instance, is indicative of how rare a sight this usually is; that shopping just once a week is a new concept, and staying at home is being in lockdown…these discoveries of the time of the virus are revealing about our lives. 

For today, though, this Easter Week, it is enough to rest in the blessings. A few of mine, in no particular order – signs of the gardener, redeeming the time:

going for walks together, David and I, at the end of the day.

going for walks without going anywhere – not downtown to my office; not to the grocery store; not to the post office; not to meet up for a coffee. Just going for a walk. It is so restful.

seeing families together: a whole family out for a bike ride on the weekend (Dad blaring music from his handlebars; Mom and the teenagers apparently unfazed); a Dad and his daughter out jogging last night; parents kicking a ball around with their toddlers at Withrow Park, or running up and down the hill with their 10-year-olds (the kids winning).

making chocolate eggs with my daughter. Eating chocolate eggs with my daughter.

quiet skies.

quiet streets. Being able to walk down the middle of the street, feeling like I’m in Saskatoon, or back in small-town Pennsylvania.

being in touch with my dear ones, family and friends. Having time to be in touch with them. Taking the time – because in the perspective of the virus it is clear that it is time worth taking.

reading. Reading together. Singing. Singing together.

not buying anything much. Eating cereal instead of sushi.

being bored. (I am still looking forward to this one.) A little boredom is a good thing. It allows you to be a child again – as children should be, unregimented, that space opening up in front of you that could be filled with anything. It is the place of my children’s exploits among the pots and pans, of dress-up parades at ear-splitting volume, of “Greenstone,” their home-made island hide-away. It is the space where Tolkien’s middle-earth – that great story of redemption – got its start.

Just a few. And in all of them, the gift of a little quietness, in which we can be still for a moment and know that He is God, and it is Easter, and there is a Gardener in our midst. 

Catherine Sider Hamilton

Catherine Sider Hamilton

Catherine Sider Hamilton is Priest-in-Charge of St. Matthew's Riverdale, and Professor of New Testament and New Testament Greek (part-time) at Wycliffe College. She has served also as Chaplain at Havergal College and Associate Priest at Grace Church on-the-Hill and St. John the Baptist, Norway (Toronto). She enjoys singing around the piano with her kids, her husband's Indian food, all things Italian -- and above all her two little grandchildren. Catherine and David live in Greektown. She blogs occasionally on feasts and fasts at feastfastferia.wordpress.com.