Monday, April 6, 2009

A Walk Among the Gods

A rare occurrence took place in Portland on Saturday. The sun came out. Moreover, it stayed out.

This is something that our exchange students had not yet seen during their stay thus far in the Pacific Northwest, so it was very exciting. We took the opportunity to teach them the English word, sun. Sun. Sun. We pointed to the sky. Sun!

No Portlander has seen this particular heavenly body in a good long time, and so the word, I think, sounded nearly as foreign to us as to them.

The weatherman says this phenomenon will likely last one more day.

In any case, I took the opportunity to chaperon Roy, our Japanese student with the unpronounceable name, around some of the nearby sites of interest in our neighborhood. First we drove to the top of of Rocky Butte, from which one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the distant mountains. Then we drove back down the hill to the Grotto.

The Grotto is a Catholic shrine with trails and statues, fountains and flowers, a book store and a church, all nestled within the embrace of tall Douglas Fir.

We saw Jesus, of course (in stone, I mean), and Mary, and assorted Saints (most of whom I am unfamiliar with, not being a Catholic). We saw Jesus as the baby, Jesus as the man, Jesus on the cross.

And as we walked, I was struck by the utter hopelessness of trying to explain this religion to someone who speaks very little English. Yes, there he is as a baby, and that's his mother, Mary. Who was he? Well, see God . . . you know God, right? . . . well God came to earth as a man and lived among us. He did many great works and taught people about the love of the Father. And then, uh . . . well, then they killed him. On the cross, see?

The people killed God?

Well, yes, but of course God cannot die. Jesus rose again from the dead. After they killed him on the cross.

Frankly, the whole thing sounded ridiculous to me. And I'm a believer.

There was one stone column that bore only the word peace.

What is peace, Roy asked?

Yes, what is peace? What indeed?

Is it the trees, the flowers, the pathways, the fountains? Is it the quiet in the air except for the howling of the leaf blower nearby?

Or is peace simply something that is in short supply, and getting shorter all the time?

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