A discarded chair has given me the thought that every ordinary day has Easter potential, that Easter can be a welcoming embrace after a long and wearying day.
We commuters have been treated to an unusual sight on the drive from Tehachapi to Bakersfield and back every day: just east of the exit for Tower Line Road, a dark red, somewhat shabby, lone wingback armchair sits in the median of Highway 58. All alone, the chair faces out across the eastbound lanes, and invites the imagination to rest in it for a while, to gaze out over the land that stretches to the horizon.
It's a startling sight, this genteel piece of furniture in the great outdoors. That area of the drive is such that, if you squint your eyes past the power lines and the orderly rows of orange trees, you can imagine the California that its earliest residents inhabited, before the missionaries came looking for souls and the miners came looking for gold.
The obvious questions are: How did the armchair get there? Did it fall from a pickup truck that was moving a family's belongings? Was it a treasured heirloom, or recently bought from a thrift store? Was it deliberately thrown away? Is someone ever coming back for it? Just what is the deal with that chair?
The red armchair has been there for at least a week. In a romantic way, the chair has become part of the scenery. Driving home one day, I watched two young men stop and take a photo of it. I imagine it's on a Facebook page somewhere. The incongruity of a formal sitting room chair in the middle of pretty much nowhere begs for whimsy. It's an aberration, a surrealistic setting in which to curl up and relax, but with absolutely no privacy. It's tranquility in the midst of rush hour. I feel like if I were to sit in the red wingback chair, I would be transported to a place beyond my commute, a place of magical, unimaginable peace. I'm finding it hard to explain, but that chair has come to symbolize Easter for me this year.
Easter each year reminds us why our Christian faith makes any sense at all. Its message of hope for salvation for all of us resonates in the deep recesses of our souls. Its light penetrates the darkness of our doubt, and we recognize the divine in us and around us. We accept our helplessness, our need for God to love us, to grace us, to sustain us and gather us and focus us on what really matters in this life. But for Easter ultimately to mean something, it has to be a daily event, much as conversion is a daily decision and love is a daily effort. Something has to jog us out of our own small thoughts, our own narrow vision, our own confines, our own worries. Something has to move us to see the miracle of Easter and appreciate God's plan in the mundane, everyday now. Something, maybe, like a red chair sitting on green grass, near wild purple lupine and orange wildflowers, beneath a blue sky.
Some people think of Easter as a salvific vision, a Resurrection, a spiritual rebirth, a holy redemption, an empty tomb, a springtime awakening, a celebratory Mass, a bonnet, a parade, or even a benevolent bunny. And Easter is all of those things. But for me this year, Easter is also a moment waiting in the wingback chair, an invitation to pause and fill our hearts with love for this beautiful world, the people who make it so, the God who created us, and those intangible things we can't even name. Easter suffuses the ordinary with its light and grace, one day at a time. And that, for us, is enough.