We’ve got a new background picture today for Ordinary Time’s header. It’s one of four (so far) that rotate at the top of the home page, and I think it strikes just the right note for a blog devoted to a spiritual journey in nasty, uncertain times. It looks like this:
We’ve been driving by that yard sign for a couple of years now, and I asked Debi to take a picture out the car window. The mood and the message coincided when we drove past it on a nice spring day, and it seemed like a good metaphor for a spiritual journey. So Debi, who has a good photographer’s eye, asked me to pull off onto a side street so she could compose the shot you see above.
(From time to time, by the way, Debi posts photos on her spiritual formation blog Seriously Seeking Answers. They’re definitely worth a look.)
If you’ve read Kathleen Norris and you’re into spiritual geography, you’ll want to know the picture was taken on MacArthur Boulevard, looking south to the intersection at South Grand. (I’ve been living in Springfield for 35 years now, by the way, and I’ve never seen MacArthur boulevarded. Perhaps it was before the 1980s.) It was a sunny afternoon in mid- to late April, when the dogwood and redbud were in bloom in central Illinois, and Debi and I were on our way to drop off recipe kits for the micro food pantry at our church (a wonderful idea — click HERE and HERE for details). It seemed like a perfectly mundane, but hopeful, moment.
Springfield has to be the yard sign capital of Illinois, although there don’t seem to be as many political signs as usual this year. When I came to town, to write a political column for the local newspaper, they came out like dandelions or hardy perennials before every election. You could tell with pretty good accuracy where the precinct committeemen lived, and who had a job thanks to which state officeholder. Springfield, I was told many times, was a “political town.” I guess it still is, to some degree.
But the little yard sign at MacArthur and South Grand is different. Debi and I first noticed it in the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and it lifted our spirits. Not because we really believed “Everything Will Be OK,” but because someone living on South MacArthur made an effort to spread a hopeful message.
Remember, this was in the late spring of 2020 when we were just starting to come out of a hard lockdown, no vaccine was yet available and the political divisiveness that hampered efforts to mitigate community spread of the virus were first apparent. (Click HERE to see a less encouraging sign, an anti-Semitic slur targeting our Jewish governor at an anti-lockdown rally in front of the Statehouse in downtown Springfield.) The yard sign on South MacArthur was like a little benediction.
It’s still there, and it still feels like a benediction, an “infusion,” quoth Wikipedia, “with holiness, spiritual redemption, or divine will.” And a reminder that even though tomorrow may still be uncertain — tomorrows are always uncertain, aren’t they? — each new day is a blessing.
Debi’s photo joins three others at https://ordinaryzenlutheran.com/ — as background pictures in the header at the top of the home page. They are:
- The Jenny Lind Chapel, a lovely vernacular Greek Revival building erected in the 1850s to house the first Swedish-American Lutheran congregation founded by the Rev. L.P. Esbjörn, in Andover, Illinois.
- Augustana Lutheran Church in Andover, built in the 1860s when the congregation outgrew the Jenny Lind Chapel. It was the mother church of the old Swedish-American Augustana Lutheran Synod.
- Maypole procession at a Midsommar Music Festival in Bishop Hill, Illinois. Midsummer festivals, traditional in Sweden, feature a procession and dancing around a maypole; Bishop Hill was founded in 1846 by Swedish immigrants.
[Published May 30, 2022]