Glitter and Ashes

Because I was privileged and lucky enough, I spent 5 “Fasnacht/Ash Wednesday”s in Luzern.

Luzern does pre-Lent well. From Tagwach/Schmutzigen Donnerstag until the sun announces Wednesday has come, the city truly celebrates life, joy, music, food, culture, children, adults, visual artistry, drinking, city landmarks, etc. They bring so much life into the world during those days and they do a far better job than the Baselers (sorry, I’m FIERCELY loyal to Luzern, Basel!).

The Tuesday festivities for me always began on the train from either Zürich or Bern to Luzern. Inevitably, revelers would start “celebrating” as the train twisted through small villages and over little brooks. I’d witness a group of girls drinking Aperol Spritzes (I was more a Kafi Lutz gal on the train) or a man in a suit slip into the bathroom a banker and come out a bumblebee or (not-so) sexy nurse. Hours later, I would take in every mask, every instrument, every little band or big band, every smell (some not so great). I loved it. The first year I went, I was alone/abandoned. The last year, I was alone-ish – Henry was in my belly.

The next morning, I would wake early. I would attempt to remove as much of the glitter and caked-on makeup as possible, usually to no avail, I’d have a good breakfast, walk to Friedental, visit Bibiana’s grave, light a candle, place a rose, and then go to Ash Wednesday services. Every year.

Ash Wednesday services never depressed me or made me miserable. I would close my eyes as Cornel or Ruth or Father Luzzatto or Justin sprinkled the dust on my head. I would let the Aschermittwoch words enveloped me. I have always understood, since I was a small child, I am dust and to dust I shall return.

All day, during those years, I would walk feeling the pieces of glitter and specks of ash co-mingling on my forehead and in my hair. I never took that beautiful juxtaposition for granted.

I am far away from my heart and spiritual home, but I am walking down the hill, over the bridge, and into my church now. I contemplate that life and death are parts of each other. The darkened veil of sadness is laced with golden threads of bliss.

Ashes and glitter. It is always thus, is it not?

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