Rain. Rain. Rain.
When you live on the edges of the high desert you don’t see much. Over the summer it will take us months to get an inch… in a good year. This year? I feel like it’s rained every day for the last month. 40 degrees and wet.
Someone just told me to have a good night… at noon. I informed them that despite the look outside it actually wasn’t night… yet. But it will be soon – and it will be the longest night of the year. Winter solstice is at exactly 9:49 pm local time. We will be as far away from the sun as we get this year at that point. We will be in the midst a night that is 15 hours and 5 minutes long from sunrise to sunset.
Dark. Dark. Dark.
I just left the bedside of one of our members. She didn’t have the energy to face another winter. She went quietly into the night… as she wished to do. I held her hand and the hand of her dear and incredibly faithful husband (they’d walked a long journey of hesed, covenant-faithfulness, just the two of them… God I can’t imagine letting go). They had agreed to disagree. He stood by her side and said good bye. I remembered a time she called me on the phone and told me not to take it the wrong way but she thought I was cute. I remembered a week ago in the hospital – I told her I loved her, she told me the same. Good bye was right… not easy.
I waited in my car in the parking lot afterward to get a phone call… to find out if another member still lived – which way should I pull out from the parking lot. Where was I going next? I really don’t care that the bulletin is sitting undone in the next tab over.
Cold. Cold. Cold.
I’m overwhelmed at the moment with the desire to add my tears to the rain. When I think of all the fights going on… about who we should welcome, about the cost of caring for people, about walling people in or out, about what we can or cannot wear on our heads or pray or who is allowed to get married or who can make their own medical choices or the consequences of someone else not measuring up to my standards as workers, as neighbors, as fellow parents, about how overpaid people are who are working hard and unable to pay the rent…
I want to cry. WHY?
Why, in a world that is hard enough, do we insist on making it harder? Why do we not care? Colder. Darker. Wetter.
Wet. Wet. Wet.
Longest night indeed. I don’t cry though. No tears come – though I wish they would, and mingle with the slushy puddles in the road. Like sitting before an empty bucket knowing you need to purge your guts but it won’t come… I wish to vomit out the dis-ease but its holding on tight. It just sits there in center of my being. This malaise of yuck. The roiling chaos of toxicity. I want to let it all go.
But instead all that happens is the eerie discontent settles in. Slightly peaceful even.
I shut the door. I turn off the lights. I put my phone on do not disturb. And I stare out at the cars through my window that looks out onto State Street. A lyric comes to mind “all those people… going somewhere… why have I never cared.”
My heart craves this night. I need to sit still for a moment in an otherwise overwhelming scheduling… I need to soak up the sorrow and find the sweetness in it. There is sweetness in it. A light, if you will, shining in the darkness. I have made phone calls to person after person. Those I know who will want to know to care. Care for a husband… mourn from a friend… attend to another dying neighbor…
Light. Light. Light.
Yesterday I sat in class and talked about thanking people who “magnified God’s presence” to us. Sending a note to another who shared a meaningful experience with us with gratitude that they were there to share it.
In the cold, damp, dark – huddle close. A light shines in the darkness not being its some existential reality beyond us… its because we wouldn’t allow it to be any other way. I will be your light, will you be mine?
On the other side of the world on the other side of the year Emperor Penguins will survive a winter far worse than mine. They will breed in it – and mostly, they will survive it all – together. In the worst of their darkest nights they huddle close and form circles with the weakest and youngest in the center completely buffered from the wind. The outside edge shuffles constantly to have movement to warm up and they create a living wave effect with their shuffling – a constant turning so that they each get a turn on the windward side of the circle.
Alone? They would be doomed. Together? They live.
I can forget that when the sun shines. When a languid spring day turns into a glorious summer sunset. When all seems right with the world. I think I stand on my own quite well.
But not tonight. Tonight I’m thankful for the light. The light of all those who would never choose any other way but to care. Not for their preservation, but for OUR preservation. Huddle close. Cry, shiver, shuffle, and go quietly into the night. But not alone. Never alone. I’m grateful I’m not alone.
I will be your light, will you be mine?
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
(Boise by night… the lights are faint in the picture. But they are there!)