SMOOTH SAILIN’: Don’t believe for a second those trees are dead

Death images. This is something we are not used to in Florida. Presented in the right context, they can be a helpful portal into our daily lives.

 

We see the reminders of our fate all around us. Driving by the cemetery and viewing the granite stones placed in perfect order always plants a seed in my head. I find it helpful many days to be reminded this is not a permanent situation we are involved in.

In New England and most of the north country you see the death images everywhere. The trees drop all their splendid colored leaves and stand naked in the snow, under the slate grey skies, for months on end. But not here. We have a much more forgiving landscape.

Saturday, we walked in Malacompra Road Beachfront Park down in Palm Coast. Salt-blasted and wind-ripped by the storms, the scrub oaks were stark naked. But not lifeless. They were stretching for the bluebird skies above us. You could feel it. The battered trees looked like they could have been in a dance pose or doing yoga. Knotted and twisted with time, the scrub oaks in the hammock might have appeared dead to the casual observer. Oh, and it was still cold, but there was hope. Brighter days were ahead.

I think cold weather teaches you patience. Seeds lay dormant longer in the north. Those folks up in the north country have their faith tested by nature more than we do. Oh they get their reward. For about three weeks a year, Maine is the most beautiful place on the earth. But I would never want to live there again.

There was some talk recently when Cardinal Bernard Law died about how he should be remembered. This was the big shot priest up in Boston they made all those movies about. He had a real dilemma in his life. He had some priests in some of his parishes around Boston that were molesting kids. He had to figure out what to do about it.

His problem was that people have not been lining up to go to seminary, take an oath of poverty and abstinence and join the clergy. Meanwhile, Boston has all these old parishes, filled with stubborn Yankees who won’t retire to Florida, even though we know they want to. It is not uncommon to attend mass in the northeast and greet a celebrant who is well into his 80s. Media reports have suggested that many of the new prospects entering the priesthood are openly gay. It is a dying profession. So you can see Cardinal Law’s dilemma. Does he fire the priest accused of molesting altar boys? If he does, he may have to close the parish. He was between a rock and a hard place. So what he did was to give these priests a talking to, move them around to new parishes and hope they wouldn’t get into anymore trouble.

Well, what he did was a crime. He knew it, too. In most big companies the big shots don’t get fired when they do something criminal. They get promoted. This is what happened to Cardinal Law; they relocated him to Vatican City. He wouldn’t have been comfortable in Boston after the truth about all the sordid crimes his priests committed went from the newspapers to the movie screens.

I personally don’t feel like it would have done any good to send the Cardinal to jail. He was a man of conscience and that must have been uncomfortable enough.

But the question many faithful have asked is whether or not he will land in heaven or hell. Who’s to judge? Many religious thinkers believe in reincarnation. Some might say this shamed Cardinal might come back as a lowly cockroach. A better person might come back as a pretty songbird, or an enlightened human. It is the great unknown we all face.

Our ultimate fate may be a quiet death or we may all live again. Watching the silent scrub oaks stretch for the sun makes it hard to believe that something beautiful buried inside us won’t bloom again.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.


Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.


 

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