Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cabbages are beautiful

The young woman, sat beside the farmer as he drove his horse and buggy through the open fields. It was her first time away from the busy life of Boston. Captivated by the unfamiliar scenery, as she was driven past one field in particular, she turned to the gruff, unsmiling farmer, asking him to explain all that she was seeing. “Cabbages? But they’re beautiful!” she exclaimed. “Hmmph! Cabbages is beautiful!” was the disgusted (and ungrammatical) reply of the farmer.

That scene from a film of which I’ve forgotten the title has remained in my mind for about 40 years. During my teens, when I spent many holiday and Saturday hours working on a farm, cabbages were very beautiful…until mine was the task of planting acres of seedlings. They were even less attractive when, hoe in hand, I was required to weed them. (It’s amazing just how much a 10 acre field can grow in the course of a single day!) Then came the cutting of the fully-grown cabbages: row after row after back-breaking, hand-bleeding row. By the end of the day I had convinced myself that if I never saw another cabbage in my life, it would be too soon.

From personal and practical familiarity, I can tell you that Brussels sprouts are a more painful experience than cabbages, because my memories include cutting them when they were caked with frost and my feet had turned to ice. Potatoes cause more painful backache. Carrots are a menace. Beans are much easier than peas, which take forever and still don’t fill the sack. Strawberries are delicious but crawling around on hands and knees for endless hours should earn a medal for those who pick them for the market….

Yet why is it that a treat to myself is to wander around vegetable markets, admiring the beautiful produce fresh from the farms and market gardens? Cabbages really are beautiful…so are potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, aubergines, apples, mangoes… God knew what he was doing when he made the world. He feasted our eyes as well as our stomachs!

This week, as we celebrate the Easter Octave, we are celebrating a horror that became beautiful: Gethsemane became Calvary became Easter Sunday morning and the Resurrection. All that was likely to lead to despair and destruction was conquered. Calvary and the empty tomb taught us one thing: the world can be turned upside down, but the Resurrection makes sense out of the non-sense.

God bless,

Sr. Janet