Come and taste

(Artwork by Sr. Mary Stephen)

“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)

by Kate Layzer

“Come and taste of resurrection,”
speaks the voice so sweet and clear;
“Rise and take a new direction;
if you trust me, have no fear.”

Who am I that you should love me?
Just a creature made of earth.
Every mortal fragment of me
shrinks away from such rebirth.

Yet you stand here watching, waiting,
holding out your arms to me;
silent answer emanating:
“Love lasts an eternity.

“Put away, then, all your grieving;
free your heart from pointless strife.
Be not fearful but believing:
Now begins eternal life.”

Christ, your name is glory, glory,
hope of everlasting grace!
Deep in this unfolding story
we have glimpsed love face to face.

I wrote this hymn text sometime in the mid-1990s, I can’t exactly remember what year. It was one of those rare texts that came to me quickly, with very little “strife.” I probably wrote it in one or two sittings. A member of the congregation had asked me for a hymn on the theme of resurrection, and this was what came out. As you might guess, I was at a very difficult time in my life. Not only were my circumstances difficult, I was difficult: young, raw, tactless, graceless. I was deeply in need of healing, and had no idea where to look for it.

The interesting thing is that by trying to write honestly about a personal, internal dialogue, I ended up expressing something seemingly universal. I say this because my church has sung this hymn two or three times a year for the past 25 years, and each time we do, people seek me out later to tell me how powerfully the text affected them.

What I want to say on this Easter day in 2022 is that I’m in a very different place now. It has taken time, and brought me to places I could never have anticipated. If you had told me ahead of time where I was headed, I would have been as terrified and amazed as the women at the Easter tomb. Joy has come on paths I would never have consciously chosen. But it has been real joy. So often in my life what I’ve gone looking for most desperately, what I thought I wanted most in the world, has turned out all wrong. “Things are sweeter when they’re lost,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in one of his bitterer moments.

“I know — because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly… And when I got it it turned to dust in my hands.”

The Beautiful and the Damned

And yet today I know that joy is real, and absolutely, positively worth hanging on for. You have to let it come to you, though. You have to go out there and live your life, and let it come to you freely, as a gift and a surprise. At least, that’s what it’s been like for me. Maybe your path looks different.

Angie Renfrew

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
O water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here in my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

		—Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

If you would like a pdf of the complete hymn “Come and Taste of Resurrection,” beautifully set by composer/musician Peter Sykes, feel free to message me. Happy Easter.

Peace at the center


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


The sadness starts most years around the second week of April.

It’s not even that I’m thinking about the date. The sadness comes, and then I remember—oh, yes. It’s that time of year again.

Somehow my body remembers. I think it must be the angle of the sun, the look of the light at this calendar moment, here in Massachusetts. Something reminds me on an unconscious level. I forget, but my body remembers.

I’m grateful for that. That means it’s real. It’s not just a date on the calendar, marked with self-conscious solemnity. It’s stored more organically than that—forever a part of me. It may well be trauma that made the imprint: We know now how trauma etches memories in particular ways. But in this case, the memory is of someone who was dear to me. I’m glad my body hasn’t forgotten.

As humans, I suspect we often miss the information encoded in our bodies. I mean, where else would it be encoded? We are made of matter, we have no alternative. The most ethereal thoughts still need a neural network to run on. The profoundest mystic, wrapped in prayer, needs operative brain cells to reach for highest heaven. (In this life, anyway. I can’t comment on any other.)

Worldly information is bodily information. But people screen a lot of it out. A lot of it we just don’t know how to interpret. So we focus our attention on what we can consciously know and choose.

The birds, the squirrels, the chipmunks, the rabbits in my neighborhood are out there doing what wild creatures do in springtime. They’re singing their spring and summer songs, they’re establishing their territory; they’re pairing up and building nests, following the deep, wise promptings of their bodies, while I try to decide what to have for breakfast, and later, wonder why I seem to be feeling especially sad that day. (It’s spring, honey. It’s the second week of April.)

Simon Alexandre Clément Denis (Flemish), Study of Clouds with a Sunset near Rome, 1786–1801

I suspect that most of us, most of the time, don’t really know why we are feeling what at any given moment. Feelings well up from a place our conscious minds can’t reach. I know why this time of year stirs up sadness. But what about all the other times? All those other shifts of mood, the whole emotional palette, clouding over and lightening again in shades of blue and purple, white and gray, like a New England sky in springtime. Was it something someone said? Did an old memory get triggered? Maybe something happened in my gut microbiome that altered my state of mind. Who knows.

We’re a mystery to ourselves. We only see a part of what’s going on at any given moment. We’re a mystery living inside an even bigger mystery, the universe, which is mostly hiding from us—mostly made up of something we’ve never seen, which we evocatively call “dark matter.” All of it inside the biggest and most dark-shining mystery of all.

I am learning to let the changes of mood come and go, like breezes through an open door. From a spot in the middle of the room, as it were, I register them, but I try not to let them consume me. I keep my balance by remembering what it feels like to look at birds. It’s a way of reminding myself that calm and peace are already present: I don’t have to go looking for them.

Yesterday I checked ebird for updates on a local pond, just to see what people had been reporting there. A couple of people said they had seen a common loon—despite the name, a rare occurrence—and one person helpfully added a note: “the north side of the pond.” So this morning I stopped by on my way to work.

The pond was as utterly still as I’ve ever seen it, reflecting back the morning light. I walked along the north edge, scanning the surface, mentally registering a background chorus of song sparrows, blackbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, robins, jays… and then I spotted it. A tiny blotch off in the distance, coming nearer, its wake spreading behind it. I lifted the binoculars. Loon.

I don’t know why I feel the way I do about loons, or why it didn’t happen to me until I was well into middle age. But it feels close to the center of who I am—not the emotions that come and go, but the joy and peace that dwells serenely at my human heart.

Can you see it?

A wartime poem

Georges Braque, 1960

The British poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) served as a second lieutenant during World War I. His poems from the trenches are some of the most powerful war poems ever written. On the eve of Holy Week, amid the grief and horror of the brutal war being waged against Ukraine, I share his poem EVERYONE SANG.


Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on — on — and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

—Siegfried Sassoon
Japanese Indigo Katagami Fabric, Palm Leaves


Prince of peace, have mercy on us.
Suffering one, have mercy on us.
Flesh of our flesh, have mercy on us.
Lead us into peace.
Christe lux mundi
qui sequitur te
habebit lumen vitae

Christ, light of the world
whoever follows you
will have the light of life

Bird portal

Gabriele Munter, Breakfast of the Birds, 1934

One year into the pandemic, when I had pretty much reached my lowest ebb—

exhausted by the virus, by 4 years of ugliness in Washington, by QAnon, by racist violence, by anti-immigrant rhetoric, by rising antisemitism, by unchecked climate change, by assaults on indigenous water rights, by the relentless polarization and politicization of everything—

sad because the beautiful community meal I run for homeless and food-insecure neighbors had been a bag-lunch-to-go service since the start of COVID, and it just wasn’t the same as sitting down together—

weary and jaded and finding little to hope for in any direction—

just like that, I started looking at birds.

I really had always meant to pay more attention to them. But except when something dazzling would happen to get my attention, I never seemed to think about them. Chance encounters would root me to the spot: the mournful cry of a curlew at dusk on a Scottish hill, a silent-winged owl sweeping over my head on a California ridge, an oystercatcher with bright orange bill at a beach in Massachusetts. Moments of pure wonder, followed by forgetting.

That was how my journey with God started too. Funny.

Gerard Hobson, “In The Park” (linocut)

March of 2021 was my bird awakening.

I honestly can’t remember what happened that made me suddenly up and buy a pair of binoculars.

Most birders have what’s called their “spark bird”—the bird they saw that suddenly made them fall in love with birding. If you’re a birder you probably have one; or if you ask a birder you know, they’ll tell you the story. But I don’t remember any spark bird. I’m not actually sure what set all this in motion. Just like other times in my life when something new has begun to stir, it seemed to happen slowly, and then all at once. I probably wondered, as I waited for the binoculars to be delivered, if this was going to be one of those dumb impulse buys that would eventually end up in a corner as clutter.

When they arrived, I got my first inkling that birding is a serious learning curve. Binoculars are tricky at first. You have to get used to the weight of them, learn to aim, focus, and track. Everything wobbles, like learning to ride a bike. Getting a bird into view at all took patience and practice.

Artist unknown

But after a while I did begin to see things. And as I looked, something very strange happened to me.

I was flooded with joy and peace. Bathed in lightness.

But why? Where did this feeling come from? I can’t tell you. Discovering birds is like discovering God—it’s just a thing that happens in the heart, impossible to describe. Like gratitude, like compassion, like falling in love, like those moments when hope suddenly stirs and you feel yourself coming back to life, this kind of joy is a gift of pure grace. It just happens.

All I knew was that birds were wild and they were beautiful and I loved them.

I ordered bird books. I downloaded the Merlin app. I began learning their names. I knew nothing, but it didn’t matter. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Birds, where have you been all my life? Right here. Everywhere, all around me, all the time.

Life is always offering itself us to us, always opening, always, inviting, no questions asked. But sometimes we’re too preoccupied, or too lost in grief or worry or pain to be able to perceive it.

Kongo Bairei, illustration from “Bairei Hyakucho Gafu,” 1881

Birds became my portal back into loving the world again, at a moment in my life where I felt nothing but bleakness. It was like those fairy tales where the little bird shows up as a messenger or guide, pointing the heroine to the journey she must take toward new life.

In the year since, I’ve looked and learned, read and studied, wondered and asked questions. I’ve had good bird days and no-bird days, walks in the woods seeing absolutely nothing and moments of sheer bliss raising my binoculars to something new and utterly amazing. My first Steller’s jay on a trip home to California. My first glossy ibises in Connecticut. My first common yellowthroat last spring. Each one a little explosion in the heart, like seeing your beloved come into view after a long absence.

Common Yellowthroat

I am in awe at the aliveness of birds. And so grateful.