Marie-Elena Schembri Writer, Photographer & Visual Artist Marie-Elena Schembri Writer, Photographer & Visual Artist

New Life

New life

Marie-Elena Schembri, Everyday Magic, Calaveras Enterprise, April 13, 2023

Like a new chick hatching from its warm egg, I stepped out of the safety of a restful winter, and into the brightness of spring last week, and I didn’t do it alone.

Sunday was Easter, the hallmark of the Christian faith that celebrates the triumphant rise of Jesus from the dead. A holiday with jumbled traditions, like most, Easter brings to mind colorful eggs, bunny ears, trumpet-shaped Easter lilies, and delectable treats.

Raised Catholic, Easter was many things, including the end of Lent — the selfless season of sacrifice when Catholics give up something they cherish in recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Let’s be honest, though. Similar to New Year's Eve resolutions, my Lenten promises rarely saw me to the finish line. But for those who were steadfast in their sacrifice, Easter is often a chance to indulge once again.

It’s also a time of chocolate bunnies, baskets filled with bright assortments of sweets and toys, and those covetable colored eggs. I always liked it as a kid. As an adult I have even been known to make “Easter baskets” for friends, my boyfriend, my nieces and nephews, and yes, for myself, to keep the spirit alive. I even filled plastic eggs with popcorn, carrots, and treats and hid them for my dog one Easter.

Without kids, nearby siblings, or parents, holidays can be pretty lackluster, often leading to nostalgia, grief, or both. It’s even more pronounced when your family, like mine, always made a big deal of holidays. The quiet, in contrast, is pronounced. Luckily, I didn’t have time to think about it much this year.

On Good Friday, I invited the public to color eggs with me at my nonprofit sustainable art center in Mokelumne Hill. Using beet, cabbage, turmeric, spirulina, and matcha tea, a handful of kids and adult guardians dunked freshly boiled eggs in jars full of natural dyes. We experimented, double-dipped, or wrapped our eggs in tiny bits of fern, onion skins, and tightly stretched nylons. When we didn’t get the right color, we mixed some together. We made a huge mess and stunk up the place with boiled eggs and vinegar. It was glorious!

Saturday morning, I ran over to the Lions Club’s Easter Egg Hunt at Hobbs Field to get some photos. While I drove around looking for a parking spot kids scurried and scrambled and scooped up hundreds of plastic eggs. By the time I had parked, the hunt was over. A handful of kids were kind enough to pose for me by a slightly creepy, scarecrow-style, free-standing bunny figure, and I took a selfie with said bunny, too.

After the egg hunt, I took myself on a tour of some of Calaveras’ best back roads in search of wildflowers. Then, I treated myself to a gorgeous stroll along the ridge above Hogan Lake, on the hiking trail at the North Fork Recreation Area. The hillsides were specked with glowing orange poppies, pops of blue lupines, and a plethora of other delights. I met a sweet family whose squat French bulldog scaled the cliff wall all the way down to the glittering water, and back up again. We laughed together and admired the view from our rocky perch.

Flowers, check! Eggs, check! Bunny, check! Now all I needed was some chocolate, deviled eggs, and ham.

Instead, I got ready for my next event of the weekend — a recycled-paper-making workshop in honor of Earth Month. Due to an oversight when scheduling, the first of two paper-making workshops happened to land on Easter Sunday. Not sure anyone would show up, I set up anyway and planned to at least pull a few sheets myself.

Luckily, two wonderful young women from Sonora were interested enough to make the drive all the way to Moke Hill, and for about three-and-a-half hours they sloshed an exciting array of colored pulp and extra bits — flowers, crushed leaves, beet, turmeric, and spirulina powders — in plastic tubs while I ran around soaking up water, wringing out sponges, and admiring their fearless paper making. We brought new life to ripped-up pieces of cardboard, junk mail, tissue paper, and paper bags. We talked about art, consulted books, and wondered what else we could throw in the vat. It was extraordinarily fun, and not once did I think about the ham and deviled eggs I was missing out on. OK, maybe once.

Another holiday weekend came and went, and instead of being exhausted from eating too much and the intensity of being around kids hopped up (pun intended) on sugar, I woke up on Monday feeling grateful, my cup full.

I may be missing my family and the extravagance of American holiday traditions, but I think I got the heart of it anyway. Instead of family, community. Instead of treats, I got to encourage and witness a bit of freewheeling, eco-friendly, magical creativity. While I didn’t attend a church service, I got to spend time in my church of choice — nature. That’s where I meet God, in the flowers and the birds and the flowing water. And in the laughter shared between strangers, the flow of imagination, the thrill of being alive on a sunny, blue-sky day after a long, quiet, wet winter.

This morning, I read from one of my daily meditation books, this one about grief. It seemed to speak to my gratitude, even in the face of some sadness and missing what was.

“If we cannot let go, then our lives will be burdened with spots of unresolved death, and our whole system poisoned. But if we can, then in the spaces where those deaths have occurred, new life will spring.” —Martha Whitmore Hickman, “Healing After Loss”

I’m so grateful for new life.