Rough-Hewn Grace

Lately, I’ve been scavenging donations to my library’s yearly book sale, digging through stuff I’d never read (but others may deeply love) for some real gems. In one not-so-hot memoir I skimmed, I found a reference to a Flannery O’Connor line from one of her letters. The line — such a good one — also depicts this Vermont March.

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.

I skied over the pine-needle-strewn ice, took off my skis and crossed an oozy mud road. Then the snow gave out. Here’s a photo of an empty house along the road, once a farm beside Big Hosmer Pond, now padlocked up, with a For Sale sign in the front yard, waiting for new inhabitation.

In its online listing, a black-and-white photo from the 1950s shows a woman in a dress standing beside what might have been a fancy new car. Who? Where have you gone? Did you love living in this house? And did the loons sing then, too?


Craftsbury, Vermont

Hardwick Postcard #9 1/2: General & Particular

On this eve, two photos: one of generalness of American life, the sludge of hurrying here and there, fueled by the genericness of roadside gas and plastic-wrapped convenience food.

Within all this, the utter uniqueness of my older neighbor opening her storm door for a long-haired feral cat, the loud boys across the street pummeling each other with snowballs, my daughter walking home, eggnog and a gift for her friend on her back.

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.

— Anne Lamott


Hardwick, Vermont


Hardwick, Vermont

And Grace….

When I attended Sunday School briefly as a child, I remember reading about the Resurrection in a paper booklet and studying an illustration of Christ standing in a white robe beside a boulder, his clean hands outstretched to a gape-mouthed Mary, his hair neatly brushed. What the heck was that about?

The presentation was like reading Macbeth on Disney character flash cards. How would this be possible? Why would it even be desirable?

Hallmark’s proliferation of bunnies and tulips to the contrary, this holiday is a mystery, bloody and ethereal within a span of days, a profoundly condensed version of human life.

More than anything else what I resent about that sanitized illustration is the belying that the crucifixion is also the story of nearly unbelievable persistence, of a man who endured physical torture, an extreme crisis of faith, and phenomenal resilience against the human tendency to flee when the going gets tough. Over and over, I’ve met that Joseph Campbell line “you must be wiling to give up the life you’ve planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” On this Easter morning, I’m reminded again that the price of grace is fiercely earned, and, yet, eternally possible.

…modern people have seen too many chemicals and are ready to go back to eating dirt.

– Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History


library book reading…