Toward the end of March, a friend and I went about replacing a dogwood that had died. The plan was to locate the new tree about two feet from where we had cut down the old one—this to avoid dealing with the dead stump and roots. When we started digging, however, we hit a slight glitch. Actually, it was a brick we hit. And another. And then another. Turns out we had uncovered part of an 18th century building foundation of handmade bricks mortared with ground oyster shells.
It happens that the friend with whom I was digging is a retired art historian and curator with a great deal of expertise in—and respect for— 18th century art and artifacts. So as to avoid going to what she calls “curator’s hell” for ignoring the find and planting on top of it, we placed the tree elsewhere and consulted with an archaeologist and a reference librarian to learn more about what we had uncovered. Early maps indicate that an “ordinary” and a stable may have stood on the property. History suggests that both would have been destroyed in 1781 by British troops to give the soldiers a sight line so that they could better defend against the coming siege. Indeed, when we dug a bit further, we unearthed a section where the bricks are in fact tumbled down.
Though I will never know their full story, I find the bricks themselves oddly moving. For one thing, they collapse time, bringing the 18th century suddenly into my life here in the 21st century. For another, they bear witness to human life, work, and struggle. And they give me eyes to see more deeply into my surroundings and to see the familiar in a new and different way
Going through Holy Week does some of those same things, though on a much larger and more significant scale. The Holy Week stories collapse time. They bear witness to human life, work, and struggle. They give us a way to see more deeply into our surroundings—and ourselves—and to see the familiar in a new and different way.
The dogwood we planted last month is this week opening its blossoms to the warmth of spring sun. The opened parts of the foundation remain exposed, though we will soon re-cover them so as to protect the site until such time as a full-blown excavation may be feasible. And the walk toward Jerusalem has begun. May your Holy Week be filled will unexpected finds, new blossoms, fresh ways of seeing, and all good Easter hope.