By Sheila Cassidy

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ezekiel 37:12-14 | Romans 8:8-11 | John 11:1-45

I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, though they should die, will come to life. ~ John 11:25

As a single woman, celibate more by circumstances than by choice, I live alone by the sea in delicious artistic chaos. Sometimes, of course, I am lonely; but most of the time I am blissfully content in the company of God, my Muse and a pet seagull called Bird.

Both Bird and my Muse had been missing the past few weeks and I’d been desolate without them. I sat empty-hearted and gazed at the window, wondering if Bird had been killed and if, exhausted by months of exploitation, my Muse had gone off in a huff to live with someone else.

Bird with branch

This week, however, I am full of joy because they have both crept home. Bird appeared, nine days ago, thin and disheveled, at the window of my study, instead of outside the kitchen where he normally awaits his breakfast. He seems to have been displaced from his rightful place by a younger, brasher gull with designs upon my hospitality. Now it seems I have two birds, Old Bird and New Bird, competing for my affections.

Muse, fresh from her holiday, wonders what’s going on. “Are they telling us about the cosmic struggle of Good and Evil?” she demands. Is Old Bird the battered Spirit of Peace and New Brash Bird the Spirit of Conflict or at least Market Forces?

This morning I said my prayers with Old Bird as he sat on the window sill, head under wing, looking for all the world like Hopkins’ wild wood dove come to “brood and sit.” I think, said Muse, as we gave Bird his breakfast, that he’s not a gull at all but a phoenix, leaping like Lazarus from the tomb to tell us that Love is immortal! I reckon he’s God’s answer to burn out!

Are you willing to be sponged out, erased,
canceled, made nothing?
Are you willing to be made nothing?
dipped in oblivion?
If not, you will never really change.
The phoenix renews her youth
only when she is burnt, burnt alive, burnt down
to hot and flocculent ash.
Then the stirring of a new, small bird in
the nest with strands of down like floating ash
Shows that she is renewing her youth like an eagle,
Immortal bird. (by D.H. Lawrence)

This reflection is from Lent: A Mapless Journey: 1993 Reflections by Sheila Cassidy. Sheila Cassidy is a doctor, known for her work in the hospice movement, as a writer and as someone who, by publicizing her own history as a torture survivor, drew attention to human rights abuses in Latin America.

  • For more Lenten resources, click here.
  • To read the reflections from this year’s Lenten booklet by Angie O’Gorman, click here.

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