Every year around the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox, I notice the word “Holi” on my calendar. My corresponding daily screen saver shows me beautiful colored powders on plates, ready for a festival of spring in the Hindu tradition. When I read about Holi, known as far back as the 4th century, my spirits rise: what fun to take colored powders and water balloons and catapult them toward friends and strangers, creating a human palette of random, moving art. In addition to the arrival of spring, this laughter-filled celebration represents eternal, divine love, forgiveness of others, the triumph of good over evil, and downright good fun.
Holi — how timely. As I imagine the grayness of war, the devastation to Ukrainians and Russian soldiers and their families alike, I can’t help contrasting Holi, with its forgiveness and joy, and conquest, with its domination and suffering. Of course, we move between the two, the bright colors and the gray, throughout our own lives individually and collectively —and the world seems to have swung yet again toward the gray. Gray can be a lovely fashion choice, and I don’t mind gray as a wall paint or a rainy day. But when our spirits are gray because our politics are still out of whack (in any direction), our economic and health systems are still unjust, our local and regional environments are still not being stewarded for sustainability, our race and gender-based hate crimes are still rising, and the pandemic is still not over, we have difficulty moving out of the gray zone. Instead, we succumb to it with depression and anxiety or fight it with ever-shorter tempers and unreasonable acts.
Serendipitously, on Holi this year, a small package arrived in the mail for me: a 4-inch diameter globe made from semi-precious stones with each country represented by rocks found in its native terrain. It’s heavy. It has heft. Oceans have beautiful swirling textures, reminding me of both currents and Tradewinds. Every day, I hold this globe in my hands. Sometimes I say prayers. Sometimes I just hold on, feeling the texture and the shape. Sometimes I look at all the beautiful colors in the spherical palette of creation-art. Not one stone is gray. The colors on the continents look like quilts. During overly long Zoom calls, I hold the globe. The Earth calms me and gives me patience. What an exquisite piece.
As a person of faith, I gravitate toward the color palette that has been gifted to me, to us. As an amateur photographer and avid collector of stones from everywhere I travel (and now a globe of them), I pay attention to shape, texture, juxtaposition, flow, angle, focus, and yes, color. For those eyes wired in such a way that they that cannot discern color itself or cannot see it at all, I wonder if the visual or felt-texture of different shades has its own beauty. Either way, the diversity is mind-boggling. The beauty, breathtaking. The diverse beauty puts gray in perspective. Color invites a joyous celebration of life and grace, forgiveness and humor, a reminder that we each hold a piece of this globe in our hearts and hands. We have been given a gift and further, we have been given the palette of stewardship choices that go with it.
You have the world in your hands. You have colors and grays. You have choices. Slow down. Ponder. And remember: the light is in you, the light surrounds you, you carry the light into the world. If you can see the colors or feel them, and even throw them around in fun, you can invite others into the Holi-holy melee when you live in Light. Holi. Holy. Light.
Dr. Lisa Withrow is an ordained United Methodist clergywoman, affiliate professor for a Chicago-based seminary, author, coach and consultant. She has resided in Delaware, Ohio, for 23 years.