“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…….”
This morning I was making coffee in the kitchen when I heard Ethan flipping light switches in the next room. A little bit later he came to the kitchen and grumbled, “These lights are weird. I can never figure out which switch turns on which light.” My thoughts EXACTLY.
Recently I’ve noticed my irritation when all too often I flip a switch and get no light. I walk a few steps to a different switch and flip it only to produce light in a totally different part of the room. So then I walk across the room and try again with a different switch. Now the light that I’ve just turned on goes dark. And I still don’t have the light I wanted. Every once in a while, I get lucky and the lightbulb I want comes on with my first flip of a switch, but more often I give up in exasperation and just carry on, using whatever light is available.
Why – after nearly 2 years of living in this apartment – don’t I know the switch-light relationships?!? And then I realized, it’s because I go for days, weeks, months without using them! Living at this latitude means we have a long stretch of summer days and nights where it never gets completely dark.
But in the rhythm of seasons, there comes time to pay the price for the seemingly endless summer light, and that time is now. We lost nearly 3 hours of daylight in September and we’re continuing to lose at a rate of about 5.5 minutes per day, on pace to lose another almost 3 hours in October. When we first moved to Anchorage from Oregon in the fall 2012, David made me a graph to compare our sunrise/sunset times with Portland. Right now we are sliding down maximum slope, straight into the deep dark, cold winter and I feel dread rising. It started at the edge of a September sunset while I watched the sun slip behind the mountains, leaving glorious colors of sky to fade into the black of night. It dances with my memories in the chill air of season’s change.
Dark was once cancer in my brother’s body. Dark is death. The loss of a grandparent. A friend. A dream. Dark is a move miles and miles from home. It is marriage in turmoil. It is a miscarriage. Again. Dark is the loss of a job. A career. Uncertainty. It is pain. Dark is anger. Anguish. And grief. Dark is a broken body. In the hospital. Alone. At night. Dark is parenting in moments of fear. It is a lump. A test. A waiting room. Dark is the blank spots in my brain. The terrifying holes I fall in.
“I don’t want this winter!” I proclaim in futile protest. “I’m not ready. It’s too hard. Too cold. Too dark.”
But this evening I pull on my hat and my gloves. And walk into the fading light. I crunch through frosty leaves and icy puddles. Winter is coming. I can feel it. The deep, cold dark. I flip switches that may or may not produce the light that I want. And yet. In a Gospel of John + Barbara Brown Taylor mashup – these words: “There is a light which shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”
There is a light which shines in the darkness.
This is the light that I need.
Last April I got a prescription for my first pair of glasses. Actually, three pairs of glasses. One for reading. One for distance. One for sunshine. I’d been using over-the-counter reading glasses for a couple years previously, so that wasn’t really new, but when I walked outside with my new distance glasses on – OH!!! The world in clean, sharp lines filled with depth and…. glory.
But perhaps the truly amazing part is that in the months since, I’ve actually managed to keep track of three pairs of glasses for three different purposes! This means they matter. Wearing them, or not wearing them, makes enough of a difference that I have figured out routines to help me mostly keep the right pair perched on my nose or
close at hand on top of my head at the right time.
Today I am seven and a half weeks post-op from brevis tendon (ankle) repair and it’s been a TOUGH recovery. I haven’t gone out much and I haven’t read much. And so, I haven’t used my glasses much. But this past week, as I’ve found myself able to focus longer, think more clearly, and read more, I’ve been reaching for my reading glasses more often.
For nearly two months now, I’ve been mostly stuck inside. Sitting with one foot up. My distance glasses lie folded on the side table, waiting for another day.
This was my 3rd surgery in 4 years and I thought I knew the drill. Boy was I wrong. The surgery itself went great. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by my doctor and his team. The anesthesiologist was excellent. He listened well to my history and fears and then made my journey out and back feel like I was a PRO.
My parents came up to help in my first weeks after surgery and I am so grateful. David has somehow managed to keep working right on through these weeks and also stack his after-hours with All. The. Errands. and a huge To-Do List. Friends have filled in gaps. And it’s Alaska so – casseroles stuffed with halibut?!? Yes.
When I went in for surgery on November 16, I knew I was in for a long recovery. The doctor has been clear from the beginning: It’s gonna be long, and hard. This surgery would knock me off my feet and keep me there. For a long time.
What I didn’t anticipate was that waking up on the other side of surgery with my right foot trapped in post-surgical dressing for several weeks, and then stuck in a non-weightbearing boot for weeks beyond that, would send me into some of the worst crazy-brain behavior I know. I’m no stranger to roaming the landscape of my brain and it has some pretty dark valleys carved out by trauma and drugs and pain. I’ve collected some wild stories from my adventures there. But I’ve also done a lot of work, learning how to avoid or manage the Crazy. So I was surprised when this ankle surgery sideswiped me and suddenly I found myself in the all-too-familiar dark, scary places. I never guessed that immobilizing my foot would pave a superhighway back to my accident memories. Some of my new stories are ridiculous and kind of funny. Some are quirky and annoying. I mean….I was annoying. Most of the stories are still too close and too raw for me to find words to tell. But underpinning them all is a deep sense of vulnerability. And in vulnerability, fear. What is it to be unmoored from rational thinking, frantically clawing through panic and so many tears? I hate everything about it.
I have had my feet knocked out from under me, yet again. And not just in a literal sense. Once again I have had to admit that life is fragile and unpredictable. I know too well how it can knock me down whenever it wants to and one of these times it will knock me clear out of the game. I don’t have enough distance from this latest drama – I’m still mostly stuck foot-up in a boot, though at least I can freely take it off now and let my brain breath. But as I begin to sort through what it all means and how I’m going to answer my erstwhile question, this all being true, how are you going to live? I put on my reading glasses and…..
START CLOSE IN
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way to begin
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
BAM. Facebook served up a fabulous On This Day 2009 picture for me today. Dandelions in the hand of a child.
I’ve been thinking about dandelions a lot lately because I’ve just wrapped up a 6 week writing class and for our first assignment we were supposed to “find some small thing and describe it in less than 500 words…stick with the physical, concrete existence of your subject.” I put on a jacket, pulled up my hood, and walked across to the Park Strip to sit with a lone dandelion one stormy spring evening in May.
Bright yellow button perched atop a slender straight stalk, you poke your head above blades of deep green. All around you, brothers and sisters fell this day; sliced, mashed, and buried in a tangle of green. Still you stand, strong in the long evening light. The wind gusts with intermittent violence across the wide field just now. Tree branches bend to each harsh call and leaves dance, resilient and strong. In spare acknowledgement, your slim naked stem simply shudders at each blow.
Salty-sweet rides on the air at the edge of this storm and you add nothing, but the earthy essence of your very being. You offer no hint of the roots which anchor you against the bluster. Toothy green leaves simply spread flat to the ground at your base. Straight narrow lines rise to draw a rubber-smooth stalk and then break at your neck. Zigzag triangles, curled back in shades of light green and brown. Nestled at this peak, strong green fingers gather to stand taller still and form an elegant dark vase. A bold presentation for your head of gold.
There is a time when your soft golden petals relax in open reflection of sun, but this is not that time. Tonight your head, this yellow cluster of paper-thin ribbons, holds stiff and steady in a series of concentric rings. Each short ribbon stands in position, together. Straight and tight. Robust and defiant, you raise your bright head. In beauty, with grace, you ride out the threat of this storm
Meh. Not really anything I’d ever mean to publish. (yeah. okay. I sorta just did.) But the crazy thing is that after that I couldn’t stop thinking about dandelions. And then a couple weeks later this happened. Glimpses of grace. Fists full of Gold.