I expected yesterday to be more emotionally taxing.
Perhaps my strange illness (the flu? a cold? something else?) has dulled my response time, but I didn't find Ash Wednesday to be as emotionally draining as I expected.
I've put ashes on people before, so that wasn't new.
But not last year (cuz in Egypt that's just not done by protestants). Which means that the last ashes I touched were my mother's. And that was an emotionally taxing experience.
But yesterday afternoon I was reminded, as I mixed my ashes and oil, that palm ashes and people ashes are not the same. Palm ashes are dark and fine. people ashes are light and grainy. It hadn't occurred to me until yesterday that different things make different ashes. I think that might be part of the reason it was easier than I expected, the pressing my thumb into the ashes and marking people's foreheads.
Also, instead of saying "remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return" we said "you are dust and ashes, and for you the world was created," based on a Hasidic tradition which Richard talked about in his extraordinarily brief meditation. (I appreciated the brevity, since I was sick and my fever was coming on at this point!)
I like this--it nicely holds up the paradox of life. As my therapist put it: "you're worthless, and you are incredibly valuable."
Last night I read the book Penguins, Pain, and the Whole Shebang. While the theology differs from mine on several points, I really enjoyed the first chapter, in which God tells the archangel Michael all about the new "human being" creation, who will inhabit "that new planet I made...the blue and green one." God tells Michael (Mickey) that this new planet was made just for these human beings, who are the crowning achievement of God. It's a great conversation. and it fit really well with the ashing words of last night. And then the emotionally drained tears came, but they were short lived, and I went on with the business of trying to sleep while having a fever.
Today my cough and I have stayed home reading, writing, sleeping, and petting the kitties. There's lentil soup being made for dinner. Hopefully by Saturday I'll be all better, since there's a confirmation class lock in then!