Just down the way from our home and at the end of a short path off the Beaver Point Road, is a statue standing in the semi darkness beneath some tall cedar trees. A cast concrete, three foot tall Virgin Mary, one of thousands of exact replicas, nothing special at all, and it is tempting to think, floodlit as she usually is at his time of year, that there is no more thought behind it than as as a Christmas decoration. And yet, standing alone in the cool green forest at the darkest time of year, she is lovely. A young woman who reaches out to bless any passerby who will turn off the highroad and take the forest path. I stop to look and come away warmed.
Real and concrete, or a thing of the spirit? We usually create a firm division between them, but here in the almost-dark of the shortest day of the year I can contain both. Religion, as an organized system of belief, has little to do with it. I am floating in a space I occupy more and more these days; neither 'reality' or 'religion'. I see the physical statue, bypass thought and feel the love .
This image of the female in such a natural setting is very ancient and not simply a Christian image: all religions present and past have recognized the essential role of reproduction, the flow of generation through all life. The passage of time and continual creation of the world as we experience it is the central mystery we live within. This Mary is known by so many names and worshipped in so many forms. What I felt in the forest is simply a human capacity to experience that greater truth.