April 1st would have been my father’s 71st birthday. It was also Emmaus Monday, the Monday in the Octave of Easter. I went to Kitchi Gammi Park (otherwise known as Brighton Beach, but don’t you think Kitchi Gammi Park is much more quaint?) in Duluth to spend some time by Lake Superior. My father looked at the world with the eyes of wonder, especially toward the end of his life. Or perhaps he always did, and it is I who was more aware of this in him during the last couple of years of his life, as I attempted to see the world as he did. So I set out to really appreciate this privileged moment of solitude.
It was difficult at first, in my mourning, to really
see the value in the beautiful, sunny day that was set before me. As I sat in the car with the window open, I was tempted to reminisce and think of all that my father had missed this year. Instead I started to pay attention to the sights and sounds around me. There were crows standing around, no doubt hoping for some crumbs (which I did not have), other out-of-sight birds chirping here and there, a few people walking their dogs, but mostly it was quiet. The water was lapping up against the rocks, snow, and ice along the shore. It was a lulling sound – soothing even. There were small ice floes on the water that were melting even as I looked at them. My father would have loved to sit here and enjoy the view. He would have walked over to the two men fishing off a large ice-rock to see whether they had caught anything.
I decided to walk a bit. The snow crunched under my feet; I pulled my hat down and tightened my scarf as the cold air and wind bit at me. As I started to wonder whether winter would ever end, I saw that a stream had forced its way through snow and ice and was emptying itself into the lake. I looked around again and realized that the ice floes I had been staring at had all but disappeared. On my way back to the Monastery, I stopped by Lester Park, and saw the torrent that Lester River was becoming. Yes, spring was here. In this Easter season there was hope again. Hope in the resurrection – the Lord’s, my father’s, mine, and the earth’s.
I am writing this on the Saturday in the Octave of Easter. Although it was nice and balmy all week, it snowed again during the night. A pleasant surprise for me this morning – the crows were putting up a ruckus (not untypical), but I looked up anyway (I generally find them amusing), and what did I see? A fox, just a few feet from my window, looking around without a care in the world. He suddenly threw himself down in the new-fallen snow, rolled around for good measure, and then calmly walked away. The crows did not impress him. Now it is snowing heavily again. Spring may not quite be here, yet I bask in the certainty that it is just around the corner.
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau is a novice at Saint Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from Quebec, Canada, she lived in the Southeastern United States for 16 years before coming to Duluth. She did research in the field of exercise physiology for over years, and more recently completed a graduate degree in theology, while volunteering in parishes, giving workshops and retreats.