National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  December 12, 2003

Deciphering the mystery egg


Chalk it up to my bad habit of asking for signs. A friend called me on a recent Saturday afternoon; he’d been to a psychic who instructed him to tell me that I was cured. As we speculated on which of my maladies was no more, I heard what sounded like plaster falling from the ceiling. I got up from the living room rug where I’d been basking in the sun like a cat. Phone in hand, I followed a mysterious trail of yellow goo to the dining room wall. Here I found an egg, shattered, half of its shell stuck to the wall.

Where had the egg fallen from? Heaven? I begged my friend to drive over and take a look. Objectivity was called for and my brain is not wired to piece together evidence. I leap prematurely to myth and meaning, symbol and sign.

I thought of the use of eggs to bring about cures in Latino and Native American rituals. Elena Avila, psychiatric nurse and curandera, often performs limpias, or spiritual cleansings, by sweeping an egg over a person’s body. She sometimes cracks the egg in a bowl and, examining the configuration of its content, “reads” a person’s energy. All this is done with prayer, as she describes in her acclaimed book, Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health (Tarcher/Putnam).

As a child, my sister would wrap refrigerated eggs in towels and put them in a kitchen drawer, sure that they would hatch. Her faith in miracles prefigured the birth of her own child after a long struggle with infertility. Her little girl’s journey to this earth included a stay in a freezer during her time as an embryo. Now 7 years old, she’ll soon be preparing for first holy Communion.

At last my friend arrived, walking in through the open screen door. I showed him the eggshell on the wall. I looked for the face of Jesus in the yellow drippings. No such luck. We studied the pattern of the goo on the floor. It seemed to point to the screen door, which I’d had open all afternoon to bathe the house in the fresh autumn air.

So that was it! Some poor kid couldn’t help himself. Some kid, with considerable eye-hand coordination, rolled that egg across my floor at lightning speed. I drew a deep breath, then laughed as I pulled out the mop. Who was I to be angry? I had committed far worse sins in my youth because I couldn’t help myself.

My miracle egg was not a miracle after all. Or was it? I am so used to reading about flying bullets and bombs that the egg renewed my faith in humankind: Somewhere, some kid was chuckling on this glorious autumn day, telling his friends about the open door and a hole in one worthy of Tiger Woods.

Demetria Martinez is the author of three collections of poetry and a novel, Mother Tongue.

National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 2003

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: