Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beach Combing

I've wiled away many happy hours on California beaches. Back then, I didn't have a cell phone though, and I never found a piece of driftwood that looked like Jesus. But that's exactly what an unnamed California woman found recently as she strolled along the coast, talking on the phone.

According to KNSD/NBC, the gnarled stick has entered this woman's life at just the right time. Her husband is serving in Iraq and is due back in September. She interprets this Jesus stick as a sign that his safe return is inevitable. I sure hope she is right.

I am reminded of a book called Faces of the Living Dead, which Mark Batty Publisher did (the house that published Madonna of the Toast). Author Martyn Jolly examines spirit photography at the advent of photography and correlates spikes in its popularity to times of war, namely the American Civil War and World War I. Confronted with death and destruction on a scale previously unknown, people sought to cope with loss by any means that provided solace, in this case spirit photography.

In reporting these instances of religious iconography showing up in all sorts of places, I have been surprised that more people's stories don't relate to the wars going on in the world today, at this very moment. It is true that spirit photography was something foisted on people looking for answers and that the stories I relay to you are about individuals stumbling upon something that reminds them of something else, but at the core of both is hope and faith: the desire to name the inexplicable and unknowable for piece of mind.

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