You wake up and it's over. Like a crazy storm or a wild affair, you soaked it up for everything it was worth. And it was delicious. It was so rich and delicious that you aren't even sad it is over. It was time. And now enters the season of stripped-down simplicity. Thank goodness.
Having gone to college in New Orleans and lived just off the parade route for a few years, Mardi Gras is special for me. I get pretty nostalgic and try to recapture some of Fat Tuesday--we always have jambalaya and I always make a king cake and listen to music that I love from the Big Easy. Fat Tuesday is SO BIG. I can't help but still get a little swallowed up it.
It's the celebration that comes before penitence. The party before shit gets real. Anticipating the time of sacrifice, it's about binging on joy and food and liquor and music and Moon Pies... a time of "too much." In fact, the reason we have this outrageous party is because the next day, we can't. I don't know if that's desperation or seizing the moment. It's probably a little of both.
A lifetime ago, I went to a George Clinton concert in the warehouse district during Mardi Gras and the concert spilled out onto the street afterward, parading down Tschopitulous Street with the P Funk. Excess until it overflows--the city always shuts down to party. But it is all stripped away at midnight. They clear the streets right at 12 o'clock and the street sweepers come through to wash away the indulgence... and maybe even those bad decisions that came with it. Again... thank goodness.
And it wasn't even like you go back to regular life. You enter into LENT. Swinging from excess to sacrifice. We made a REALLY BIG MESS and now we are going to clean it all up and go to church. But Lent is, most of all, a time of relief for me now. A time when there is sacredness in simple tasks. Even though it's a holy season, but it almost feels like the pressure is off. No parades, no makeup and parties. No baggage. Simple living.
Ash Wednesday mass reminded me of what we do to prepare for Easter. We mark ourselves, saying that we are ready for the journey. Then, we start shedding the things we don't need anymore for the journey to rebirth. We can celebrate and indulge all we want, but before we can start the journey, we have to put that stuff down.
In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo writes about a man who was going to paint his walls. He went to the hardware store and gathered all his materials: drop cloths, mixing sticks, paint brushes and gallons of red paint. With his hands overflowing and things tucked under his arms and even a brush clamped between his teeth, he tried to open the front door. According to the story, the man says, "I teetered there for minutes, trying to open the door, not wanting to put anything down. I was so stubborn. I had the door almost open when I lost my grip, stumbled backward and wound up on the ground, gallons of paint all over me." He laughed at himself for his foolishness.
Mark goes on to write that we cannot hold on to things and enter. "We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside." Thank goodness. That part speaks to my soul.
My twenties were like one big, long Mardi Gras, I think. And when it was over and the street sweepers came through, I put all down for the next part of the journey. It was swept away and I entered into being married and a mother... just exactly as I had always hoped. And not without its own indulgences. But that is another post.
I called my friend Jill today, who picked up the phone and said she had just been thinking of me.
"That's creepy. Why?"
"Well, it's Mardi Gras and I was thinking it would be nice to drink a bunch of hurricanes and go check pigs in our bikinis."
True story. This is also the friend who had a heated conversation with her father about the rules of wearing thongs to do chores that summer. Of course, he meant flip flops. And that, too, was lifetime ago.
But it really was delicious.
I hope you indulged. And I hope that you are able to set some things down before you move on to this next part of the journey. See you on the road...