On a Saturday in February, my family and I went to Pittock Mansion to take in the view with our niece who was visiting from out of town. Although we’ve lived in Portland for nearly a decade, Jeff, Eli, and I have never visited the historic house. We were surprised on that sunny winter day to find the parking lot and rooms crowded with visitors. When I asked the woman at the front counter if this large a group was typical in the winter, she replied,“Oh no, everyone’s just here for Valentine’s Day.” Then we noticed that there were quite a few couples scattered around the grounds—lying on blankets in the unseasonable sun, looking for spring flowers poking their heads out of the ground, and even sitting on a bench with full wine glasses. Having never been there, at first I thought the party atmosphere was typical. But evidently, Valentine’s Day is one of Pittock Mansion’s Big Days every year.
“We should come back here again in a month, and see how the plants have changed,” suggested my godson as we paused by one of the gardens, still mostly brown earth. I nodded, agreeing this was a good idea, but thinking it was probably unlikely. But then, I thought of how much more I would appreciate the sweet little magnolia tree, showing its pink spring buds, if I had seen it six weeks before, bare in the winter cold. And how much more I would appreciate it six weeks from now—all flowered and leafed out.
We are heading into the season of Big Days in the church. In just a month, we will celebrate Holy Week and Easter. Part of why we are moved by the pageantry and excitement of these days is because we have walked through the bare and sometimes chilly days of Lent. As we walk them together, I pray we savor each one as it is, knowing that each one has a unique beauty all its own.
For help staying with the day-to-day beauty that is Lent, I’m grateful to Cheryl Carbone for the booklet of daily prayers, practices, and meditations she created just for our congregation. If you have not already picked one up, it is not too late to do so. Do yourself the favor of seeing the beauty of even the barren days, and you may find that the Big Days have even more power.
See you in church!