Three Things

My daughter is afraid of heaven. Donuts in a heat wave. Red Rocks, 7022 AD

Three Things
Photo by max fuchs / Unsplash

A short little shared meditation about three very different moments in the week that have a similar resonance. I guess it’s my way of seeking understanding through Three. 

That seeking is an old tradition. 

Philosophers use trichotomies to explain one thing through three parts. Plato said man was made of Mind, Soul and Body. Hannah Arendt said the active life was made up of Labor, Work and Action. Religions like Three too. Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels. Christ rose on the Third Day. Zoroastrians follow the “threefold path”, known as Asha - good thoughts, good words, good deeds. Mathematicians love Three too. Pythagorus was a mystic before his theorem was taught in our tenth grade classes. He and his followers believed the world was made of numbers. Three was the perfect number because it had a beginning, middle and an end.  

I don’t imagine my three things will help any of us achieve transcendence, but maybe they’ll help us see through the glass, darkly, sometimes.

Tuesday: Donut Run

I took the two younger kids to get donuts on Tuesday. They had the day off school because it was parent teacher conference day. Our conference was at 11:40. Usually, we’d spend the morning at a park under a tree. But it was the first day of another record breaking heatwave. And by 9am it was the kind of hot that comes up from the ground. So donuts. I guess when I don’t know what to do with my kids, I give them sugar.

The donut place we go to is called City Donuts. It’s on Colfax. Just a couple doors down Rainbow Demon Tattoo, which my kids think is a hilarious name for a tattoo parlor. City Donuts is painted white with a big pink donut on the sign. I parked a couple of blocks away. In this family, we walk for donuts. Or something. We walked past a man under a tree. He sat in a folding chair, next to a cart with sleeping bags, plastic bags, paper bags, canvas bags. You have to carry so much when you have very little, you know?  

He wasn’t asking for anything. Just sitting. We walked by. In the donut shop, Brontë clapped her hands together, “What a day it is when we get donuts as a family!” She has a funny way of talking right now. Everything sounds like the first line from a Disney princess coronation speech. Brontë asked for a rainbow sprinkle donut with pink icing. Viola got a sugared raised donut. I asked for two glazed twists. Pulled a cold milk from the fridge and then paid. I held the girls hands until we got to the man under the tree. 

“Would you like some donuts and milk?”

He smiled. Our hands touched as he took the donuts and carton of milk. And I felt myself twist. Years ago, he was a child under a tree, at school or in his backyard. And he when laid down and looked up at the leaves, and wondered, he didn’t see this tree. This hot day. This grocery cart. This sagging chair. This woman with so little in her outstretched hand.

When we got to the car, Viola said, “Mom, that was really nice.”

I told her it really wasn’t. It was the least I could do. If I’d been able to get cash at the donut shop, that would have been better. But I couldn’t. And sometimes when I don’t know how to help people, I give them sugar. 

What a day it is when we get donuts as a family.

Wednesday: Heaven Can Wait

I was reading to Brontë on Wednesday night, when she started to cry.

“Mom, what if when we get to heaven, we can’t find one another?”

Brontë is very afraid of heaven. When she was old enough to understand my dad is dead, she asked where dead people go. I told her that their bodies are buried but I believe their spirits go to a place people call heaven. My understanding of heaven is close. More like another dimension nestled against ours than a place too far to fathom. Although I guess that kind of closeness is hard to fathom too. I tried to give it to Brontë once but she just looked confused. 

One time she asked me if heaven was a continent as big as Africa. I told her I thought it was bigger. She cried then too. “Oh, I wanted it to be small. So we can find one another.”

This time, I was ready, “Well, when we get to heaven, a long long long time from now, we’ll find one another. Because heaven is about happiness and we can’t be happy without each other.”

She thought a minute, “Mom, Atticus at school said that old people get young when they get to heaven. But what if when we find one another, you are too little to take care of me? Who will be my muvver?”

I pulled her in, “Brontë, I don’t know about what Atticus said. But I do know in heaven and on earth and everywhere in between I will always be your mother and I will always take care of you. Okay?”

She sniffled, “Okay. But, mom. Why would God make earth where people die and heaven where people don’t die? Why not just make earth where people don’t die? I never want to leave the earth where you take care of me.”

I thought about talking about how the Greeks believed the gods had veins full of ichor. Ichor made the gods immortal, but immortality isn’t life. When humans prayed to the gods, they’d make burnt offerings and the gods would turn their heads and draw the smoke of burning meat into their nostrils. What is forever without that savor? The blood in our veins kills us, but it also gives us life. And maybe you can only truly live forever, in heaven or another dimension or on an altar remembered, after you’ve died. 

Instead, I said I never want to leave earth where I take care of her either. And maybe if we agree that we’ll always find each other no matter where we are, we can both feel some peace. We agreed. And then I started reading again. 

Friday: Red Rocks

Red Rocks is an open air amphitheater in Colorado built into a huge rock formation. The rocks are eroded from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains, but they feel like they came to be on their own. How can anything that big come from something? You know? The formation creates nearly perfect acoustics. There is evidence the space was once used by Indigenous tribes for ceremonies. Now, it’s used for concerts. Ten thousand people can sit in the benches cascading between two enormous rocks. The stage sits at the bottom, built into the side of another big rock. 

On Friday, we took Margaret and Viola to see Brandi Carlile and Allison Russell there. The show was sold out. It was cold, after a week of heat. It rained for the whole show. The blankets we brought soaked. Our cheap ponchos leaked. Still, my girls sang in the dark with their eyes closed and their arms spread out. The sound of their voices moved from where we sat and hit the rocks. 

Someday, maybe five thousand years from now, someone will sift through a dig site at the amphitheater. They’ll find bits of metal that they’ll think may have belonged to primitive sound equipment. Maybe this was was a place of auditory worship. Evidence of food - chicken bones or fossilized peanut shells. Perhaps there were feast days. 

Above and beside the found fragments, the red rocks will be the same. If that person listens closely enough, they’ll hear my daughters’ voices bouncing back from the surface of the rock and into the air around them