Flickr photo by neilbetter, creative commons
About this time last year, a group of workers repairing an underground steam pipe under the parking lot outside my daughter's dorm found human bones buried in the dirt.
This is not what most parents want to discover on move-in day.
"It's no big deal, Mom," Sarah said. "Remember, I told you DeSaussure was a hospital during the Civil War. They say they used to bury the amputated parts out back. Either that, or it's leftover cadavers from when the med school was here."
Sarah laughed at the look on my face.
"Mommy," Sarah said, patting my head as if I were cute, "you've got to remember. This place is OLD. You can practically breathe in the history."
Breathing in history.
As we worked on packing up the minivan to take her back to school on Friday, I remembered the bones and our conversation.
Her comment about breathing in history sent me rafting down a stream of consciousness.
Care to ride along? (There is purpose to the journey, I promise!)
I'm teleported back to junior high. Mr. Keck taught me tons of useful things, like how to use the slide rule (calculators need batteries and were probably a passing fad, anyway,) and how to pronounce Molybdenum ("It's mo-lib-din-um, not molly-be-denim!"--he's probably still slapping his knee in heaven over that one.) But then there's the rant I still ponder quite often: that there was a set number of atoms when the world came to be, and we just keep reshuffling them over and over, in death and birth, in eating and in pooping, in recycling and cooking, planting and manufacturing, killing and procreating. "Breathe in," he used to say. "Why, you might be sucking down an atom that once belonged to Aristotle! Abe Lincoln! Who knows! Whenever you breathe, you're tasting everything that came before you. You're tasting all creation!"
I used to think of this a lot when we lived in France.
Not because I was particularly philosophical there. (Though I was. Big changes were happening.) It was on account of the smoke.
I've heard that there's a big effort to curb smoking now, more serious than when we were there, when I'd stop by a café for a café au lait and end up smelling like smoke until the next morning's shower. The smoke was devilishly stubborn. It surrounded you, weaving itself into the fibers of your clothes, nesting in your hair, swirling in and out of your mouth, plunging into your lungs. You'd have to work to get rid of it, lather up with soap and shampoo, wash your clothes, set your coat on the balcony and let wind and time work on it.
I was thinking on this (and drinking coffee!) as I read my psalm yesterday.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5: 11-12
This brought my raft to my last stop stream-side: the fourth grade Sunday school classroom at church.
Each Sunday we light the candle before the children come in, to remind them that as we sit on the carpet and tell the story, we're on holy ground.
God is with us, providing light and presence.
At closing time, we don't snuff out the candle. We call it changing the light, transforming it from a light we can see to another form, to smoke that gets in our hair and lands on our skin. It swirls around us and spreads through the room. We take it with us wherever we go, to big church or home, hanging onto our bodies, in our lungs, in our hair.
The God Of All History that came before us and will unfold for years after we're gone, surrounds us like a shield.
I may have forgotten how to use the slide rule long ago, but that truth stays with me.
Emmanuel, God with us, thank you for surrounding us with your favor, like a force field, like smoke in our clothes and hair, breathed in our nostrils, sucked down into our lungs. Thank you for being in us, around us, before us. We love you.
Have an awesome, wonder-filled Wednesday, y'all!