Jesus in the rubble

After the debris had been lifted and carted away, all that was left of the little yellow house was concrete — an impersonal litter devoid of any indicia of 40 or 50 years of living. I told myself that I would hold dear whatever little sign of life I found. Don’t ask me why.

First, I spied a disk of nylon tulle, scarlet against the grey debris like a splash of fresh blood. How did it survive when so little else did? During one of my trespasses, I’d come upon a pile of these in the basement — leftovers from a baby shower, perhaps? They were the perfect size to load with pastel-colored candies and tie up as a favor.

hipstamaticphoto-566341937.775817But mostly, there was rubble. No hemp. No copper. No stray nails. Nothing. When I squatted down near where one of the basement doors had been, however, I found four more things.

There was a hank of black cord, a padlock, and a dead mouse. I used the tulle to pick up the mouse. I would bury it later.

img_9538-1The house triggered thoughts about our predicament. Most of us operate under the shared hallucination that more is better, but developers and corporations do so with a vengeance. The old calculus of cost-benefit analysis (long-term consequences be damned) these days means risking the future of our planet.

The almighty dollar will float like limp lily pads when a super storm floods the new and enlarged basement. Money in the bank won’t slow the storm surge when a torrential, 100-year-storm hits. And, by the way, when will we stop calling storms that happen twice a year, ‘100 year storms’?

The almighty dollar won’t buy our grandchildren a future when water becomes the new oil and Ted Turner’s descendants own the Mississippi. Money will be rendered conspicuously useless in a barter economy. What do stocks and bonds mean to hoards of refugees fleeing drought or civil war? And when the pandemic comes, bleach will be the precious commodity.

Maybe the empty lot, still forlorn and naked in transition, suggests that you won’t want to live in a post-capitalist disaster zone — one bottle of bleach and a beaker being enough, if you catch my meaning.

The empty lot speaks to the break down of bodies, since we too will crumble into anonymous debris. But while the decay of flesh falls within the natural order of things, conspicuous and reckless consumption does not.

New lives will occupy this square of land —  lives of sorrow and triumph, pettiness and valor. Will they act as if we can consume and invent our way out of climate change? Or will they be willing to look at hard truths and buckle up? Am I?

And then, I found Jesus in the rubble. A piece of maroon felt about the size of a quarter appeared at my feet. I flipped it over to find Jesus. Half a scapular. This and the dead mouse somehow became emblems of ‘radical hope.’

A crescent moon winked through the branches as I walked home. The air was crisp. With a dead mouse and half a scapular in my pocket, I pulled an airing quilt off the yew in front of my house. After the grey debris and feelings of regret, the colorful patchwork moved my tired and clamped heart. This was yet another emblem, wasn’t it? One of love. One I hope will survive as a minor but meaningful legacy.


28 thoughts on “Jesus in the rubble

  1. Margaret Rose

    You sent me searching for truth in a great quote. I like this one:
    “The trouble is, you think you have time.” Buddha

    Which kind of makes me smile. I’m resisting what you’re writing about, I know. Your essay here makes me think about the beautiful artifacts that every other culture has left us to admire. And what will will we leave behind? This question has been asked by so many people, and ignored by too many people…

    1. deemallon Post author

      You remind me of another quote (Lao Tsu?): Make haste slowly.

      Two weeks ago I admitted I couldn’t “go there” with climate change because all my bandwidth is given over to trump and his band of thieves. That is changing.

      We are the first generation that may rob future generations of the chance for survival.

  2. Joanne

    There are days-years-when I am grateful not to have grandchildren to worry about. Yes, the first generation to rob future generations of a chance. But we landed something on Mars and invented the internet and then decided to live our lives thru a phone and stop talking to the person across from us.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thinking of how unknown the future for our children is is hard enough without adding total disruption of the social and natural orders into the mix. The new Green Deal being proposed by some in Congress right now gives me hope.

  3. Michelle Skater

    I think I’ve pretty much said what I think in the last post and your thoughts feel familiar to me. Monthly a small group at my Zendo meet to look at ageing (implied sickness and death) through the wisdom of Buddhism. Tonight a man about my age announced that he received a diagnosis of probable cancer and will have more extensive tests to confirm and detail in a few weeks. He has been working a s chaplain to the dying for many years and does not fear death. His question was (paraphrase)…how do you live in the moment with courage, equanimity and joy. We all offered our intimate responses. The dead mouse and the 1/2 scapula are like symbols for our inevitable reality and hope. Hope? Perhaps just an affirmation that love exists, even if there is no after life. It has to be a consolation that not just the house and the body do end as rubble. that means the ugly politicians and greedy world movers and shakers will also end that way. Meanwhile, every act of love and creation is what really matters. The quilt is lovely.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Well, for having said it all last time, you certainly add some more insight here. The chaplain you describe sounds like an admirable soul who raises the energy wherever he goes. I would like to be less afraid of dying. More trusting that acts of love matter…

  4. Anonymous

    Oh my goodness I am walking with you amongst the rubble of an existence. I felt the joy as you found the Jesus . I prayed over the grave of the mouse. How tiny and fleeting life is.

  5. nanacathy2

    Goodness so much within this post. Finding Jesus amongst destruction and rubble is very powerful. One day humans will surely be wiped from the planet and nature will heal herself.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Oh my god. That video. How it captures what technology’s done to us (she said, typing on her phone to one of her favorite cyber friends). I don’t go out that much and when I do I continue to be shocked by the way people use their phones. Little attentions and courtesies have vanished in so many settings. To say nothing of the larger disconnects.

      1. Sue Batterham

        After watching that video I am so glad I sometimes forget to take my phone with me. I used to feel guilty, not now!

    2. Margaret Rose

      Thanks for sharing this, Mo Crow, it’s the first I’ve seen it. Chilling, brilliant. I’m noting Moby (and friends) quick visual nod to artist Edward Burtynsky ( at one point. Dee, do you follow Burtynsky? Amazing photos of how we are destroying our world. Some great synergy with your photo essay here. I recently learned about his work and his wife’s (Joanna Priestly:; they do very different art work. But anyway… Wes Anderson gives homage to one of Burtnsky’s great photos in “Isle of Dogs”. BTW there are also Kirawasa refs and others. I went LA a couple of weeks ago for the LA Animation Festival (LAAF) and heard Paul Harrod, the production designer on “Isle of Dogs” ( speak about the making the of film – stop animation process to the nth degree – and that’s where I learned about Burtynsky.
      BTW, how does one post images to this blog, as a reader?

      1. deemallon Post author

        Thank you Maggie! So much to watch and learn from here. That’s what Sunday’s are for. I’m not sure about posting a picture. Maybe if you cut and paste it rather than try and link directly?

  6. Liz A

    How much soft beauty there is in your quilt … especially when counterposed with the gray concrete rubble and splintered wood. I’ve been thinking lately about how long our cloths will last … seeing abandoned cloths at the thrift store, so full of some stitcher’s time … Amy Meissner’s recent homage to the same. And as I make my newest cloth from fragile baby clothes, I can only hope it is loved into disintegration long before its owner willingly gives it up.

    1. deemallon Post author

      “Loved to disintegration” is a lovely path for cloth to go. The couch quilt that I made K a few years back included a very thin cotton that has started to give way (we use the blanket almost all year). Time to add some patches! I love the use of salvaged fabrics in quilts.

  7. Michelle Skater

    Night owl that I am, I just returned again to read the additional conversation. Such a compelling post Dee. Earlier this evening I attended an inspiring free event at NYPL and then I got an email saying it was live streamed for free so I can share it with you if you have the time. I think you might find it as energizing and uplifting as I did:

    1. deemallon Post author

      Ooh thank you. I will have time today. And it’s Sunday. A good day to seek out that which uplifts! Thanks again.


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