By Dan Bodine
Easter in the northern hemisphere, at least, is about coming together, coming out of winter darkness to join and spread cheer with each other. Something within us has been defeated and we’re buoyed with new hope and fresh starts.
For Christians, it’s tied securely to Christ’s resurrection. Victory over death; hail not the body as the final arbiter. The holiest of events it becomes as the quintessence of joy. As a people we’ve risen!
But for most people throughout history in our latitudes it’s been about this moment of Mother Earth‘s rising, too. Lest we forget. We care about all of God’s gifts to us. Or we’d better! Naturalists and philosophers long have argued these two thoughts twin together unseparately.
In ancient practices what became some of our Easter observances arose, indeed, over throwing out the rags of winter gloom to welcome the fresh awakening in the earth that was Spring. It was joy in the death of the old, and in the sight of the new. That tradition is still part of us, many argue.
Thus a few millennia later now, whether it was our family taking in Easter services at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in El Paso Sunday or visiting the poppy festival on the city’s northeast side Saturday in the Franklin foothills, both in a sense were reminiscent of that ancient script of celebrating Life after death.
Indeed, after feeling closeted for months by cold, dreary weather, folks simply wanted to get out of the house and share in celebrating this magical time, perhaps.
Thank God, it’s over! We have survived!
The annual poppy festival, in northeast El Paso just off Transmountain Rd. on the eastern Franklin foothills adjacent Castner Range, was first sponsored and organized by the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition in 2007.
At one time a WWII firing range used for Fort Bliss training, the range slowly is being cleared. But what will eventually become of it is uncertain. Competing political forces are at play here, and in theater talk defining it may encompass the soul of who we are as a people.
Developers eye the beautiful views and want to build upscale houses and such. But those into environment issues want to check urban sprawl, as well as save the land’s crucial role as habitat for birds and wildlife.
Along with other conservation groups, they want it part of the huge Franklin Mountains State Park, already the largest inner-city state park in the nation.
And the poppy fest — more than a reason to “get out” and celebrate Easter now, one senses — thus has become a society symbol, to me anyway, of this swelling, gut-feeling drift toward environmental conservation. There is a sense winds are changing, mates!
Easter is a good time to see this. Fresh winds are at our backs. Many local groups were on hand Saturday, lending support to efforts to Save the Franklins. The petitions to do so abounded. Along with many booths and entertainment activities, of course.
This festival — one of many such Easter “risings” over the weekend, yes — is held on the outskirts of Castner Range and behind the archeology museum just off Transmountain Road.
It’s a safe place to view both the Mexican Gold poppies and to take in the vistas of the desert mountains. (Here’s an excellent Desert USA story on these Franklins.)
But “no way” can the small museum facility accommodate all the festival parking. Especially as it becomes more popular as an environmental Easter deal-maker!
Thus each year UTEP volunteers and shuttle buses are dispatched to pick up and drop off festival goers at a nearby El Paso Community College parking lot, maybe a mile away.
This year the crowd was one of the largest no doubt. Winter has left stubbornly, yes. But not before blessing the poppies with good rain while here. Their blooms were numerous.
For daughter Kareli and I, after 15-20 minutes waiting in line and finally boarding one of the shuttles, it was packed tight, we saw. Little room for those standing in the center aisle to even turn around in, for instance.
It didn’t matter! No complaints; no sad faces. These people were happy.
It’s Spring! We’re going to see the poppies!
Seated beside me, I shared a laugh about the craziness of the situation with a woman and her husband; and she and Kareli went on laughing and talking for minutes until we arrived at the fest. Total strangers, we were. A refreshing moment.
“Dark clouds forbidden this day,” it seemed, was the unwritten behavior code. People were “getting out.” And they wanted to see and be seen.
The Easter celebration around the world, in this sense, becomes a mustering of God’s victory forces then — a “present and accounted for” stepping forward by folks.
It’s not just over defeating winter’s dreariness. The fulfilled promise of new Life is exploding all around you. Look at it!
Whatever the religion, Easter is a sign put up by God that says He delivers on his promise for a tomorrow.
And you feel a new bounce in your step when that sinks in.
Maybe Saving the Franklins and a few other environmental corrective actions now would be a nice token of our appreciation for all that. Is that our new drift?
Sure seemed like it this day.
— 30 —