Even in the Dark
To be broken is no reason
to see all things as broken
Seldom seen, growing along the ocean floor, the white plumed anemone is a watery blossom. It is white lace opening under tons of black, opening as if bathed in the sun, while so far from the sun.
This is the trick to staying well, isn’t it: to feel the sun even in the dark. To not lose the truth of things when they go out of view. To grow just the same. To know there is still water, even when we are thirsty. To know there is still love, even when we are lonely. To know there is still peace, even when we are suffering.
None of this invalidates our pain, but only strengthens our way back into the light.
* Close your eyes and feel the fact of the sun. It will be there when you can see again.
* Inhale deeply through the part of your heart that is closed and feel the fact of love. It will be there when you can feel again.
* Breathe slowly through the part of you that doubts and feel the fact of life. It will be there when you can open your spirit, as you did when you were born.Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Last Monday, in a fit of brilliance*, I ordered a metric ton of library material, determined to be well armed through the impending social isolation.
* Not mine, but that of a dear friend who recently raided her own tiny library for the full Harry Potter set, read by the marvelous Jim Dale. Me, I just highjacked the bandwagon.
Tuesday I hauled myself into our little library–to preside over the library board meeting, for I am the grand poobah **–where we made the decision to close the library. Closing the doors the following day. We are living in strange times, folks.
** I had to sit in a NEW purple chair, as the one that has historically served as my presidential throne is now in the kid’s bedroom. I survived. Barely.
All my books and movies, ordered with the wiggle of a self-satisfied woman? Yeah, not comin’ in. Courier was on their final run around our library system, processing one last batch of inter-library loan requests, and it seemed I was a day late and a dollar short. Deep Sighs.
But alas, after the sad meeting, all of us just a bit rattled and jumpy at the prospects of this virus running rampant, we, your trusty library board, ran through the after-hours stacks like looters, stocking up for the apocalypse. Pride be damned, it was every man for himself, none of us wanting to be stuck with our meager personal literary collections for the long haul. ***
*** OK, we weren’t really that ruthless. I had in my arms the beloved Harold Fry and Queenie Hennesy duet, and I selflessly shared them with someone who hadn’t had the pleasure of partaking of them before. The ripping sounds wracked the building, but once the Band-Aid was off, I felt good knowing Nancy’s quarantine would be lighter and happier. Selflessly, I tell you of my martyrdom here.
I nabbed a fat stack of DVDs to add to the streaming services that would be entertaining our darker hours, and a respectable armful of reading material before calling it a night and heading home to pine after all those titles that I wouldn’t be seeing anytime soon. I mourned for Harold and Queenie just a little bit.
Wednesday, I got a notification that a handful of books were waiting for me, and I scooted in to pick up whatever the courier gods deigned to deliver.
And there in the midst of that wildly varied pile was a little gift from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening. It’s a daybook, with a short devotional entry for each day of the year.
Thursday, I opened that gem to March 19th, and saw what a treasure I was holding for the present pandemic.
Peace in the Time of COVID-19.
I’ve been working hard to bolster some good habits for health and sanity in the past few weeks. Inserting a few new ones–namely the 8am Family Workout that the Conserve kid has mandated, which may or may not be killing me–and resurrecting a few old ones who’ve been lost in the wash of life. A little bit of daily spiritual nourishment is one of those self-insistent life edicts that I’ve struggled with in recent months.
But it’s Lent, more than halfway through now, and of all I’ve learned, I know it’s never too late to hunker down and face the struggle.
Painfully, the Bible has been rubbing m’hackles of late, mostly due–I believe–to some interpersonal issues between St. Paul and myself. Let’s not drag all that family business out on display.
Anyway, I get in there some, but there are times in life when the nourishing is also irritating, and a little distance is good for all involved. Seasons.
Many spiritual works in general have struck a discord within me as well, my general temperament being a bit more holistic–and arguably curmudgeon-y–than surface Christendom can hold. I’ve been relishing in the deeper traditions, of my own eastern faith, and of the rest of the contemplative hosts.
I’ve been seeking God, striving to see past the packaging, and rest in God alone, sans decipherment or any need to explain.
Seeking love, and less interested what others might think of my decisions to always come down on its side.
Seeking Peace, my word for the year–and what a year to choose to meditate on peace 🙄–being much more concerned with unity than division.
It’s been a wild ride. Lots of reconciliation, and much dying to the ingrained teachings and habits I’ve been carrying around for a lifetime.
I’ve always nicknamed Orthodoxy ‘The Great Reconciliation,’ as that is what it has been in my life. I have constantly been faced with new and deeper judgments and defaults, and challenged to build all the disparate parts of the human experience into the whole of God. To stop sorting, and to start reconciling. Over and over again.
To slowly walk the path of love, where the blacks and whites of our judgments are quietly revealed to be an illusion, and the undivided spectrum of grays, and the full palette of hues and tints and colors, come into view step by step.
Because if God is Love–and that is sometimes the only thing I can say for sure–then he is not division. If God is judge, then I am not.
I digress. I’ve stumbled further down the path of my heart than I intended. Funny how that can happen. Social isolation, maybe.
Today, I opened up the serendipitous book that somehow made it to me even in the final moments of library service, to the page of March 24th, because even though I’m losing track of time, at least I have technology to remind me of where we fall in the grand spectrum of things.
Today. March 24th. Pandemic Day 14.
And Mark Nepo had some great words.
I wanted to share.
And then get all caught up in my own personal Lenten Journey.
Just to lighten it up a notch, the best meme of the pandemic, courtesy of that beast of a priest:
Take a breath.
Peace to you,