I know when I go off the deep end. I can tell when my soul has crossed over to something numb or, worse yet, into the darkness. The warning signs show themselves in the condition of my house. Bed not made. Clothes on the floor. Dishes, pots, and utensil in a mess on the counter. Mail and stuff piling up on the dining room table. Papers, books, and dirty coffee cups taking over the living room. This “dark night of the soul” happened recently during the tumultuous end days of the 2020 election. I had worked hard on a local election; writing letters to the editor, working as my candidate’s local outreach person, and calling voters on the phone bank. My guy lost. Luckily another person I was rooting for won. But I ended up disgusted with everything and everyone, including myself. The big wide world was out of control, defective, and dysfunctional. It seemed like a very, very bad place to be.
But then something wonderful happened. To me it was a miracle, a gift from the heavens, a reprieve, a lovely shot of relief. All of a sudden in my corner of the world I was blessed with Indian Summer, a wonderful stretch of days filled with sunshine and warm temperatures. It was so unexpected and so generous, an escape sandwiched in between the darkness of human failings and the coming winter. I jumped on it, knowing its value and understanding the need to soak it all up before it was gone.
I walked in my woods everyday, taking in its peace and honesty.
On another day, I took the time to look closer.
The weather offered social distancing outdoors and I headed north to see my friend, Tammy. Tammy who loves beautiful literature, art and the outdoors. She is kind and joyful and has a deep soul. We talked with trust and urgency about all sorts of subjects and the particular issues we were experiencing in our lives. On the hill under the pine trees behind her beautiful house, we created our version of “the red tent”. Just like the women of long ago who came together to get away from the pressures of tribe and culture, we shared our true selves.
Every morning the sunshine came. Another day offered a chance to see another friend, Chris. We have been good friends for decades and arranged to met at a state park on the river to walk and talk. I admire Chris, she is a great cook, gardener, and homemaker. I’ve learned a lot from her over the years.
I took my camera, it always keeps me focused. It is an inexpensive retired “point and shoot” that I purchased used on eBay. I’m set in my ways, it was bought to replace one just like it that was ruined by sand on a windy day at the beach. It is a simple machine, small enough to carry in the tiniest of purses and it accompanies me wherever I go. Like me it is unsophisticated. With its limited options and my limited skills as a photographer, I must work hard to search out the beauty of the world and let its existence produce the quality of my pictures.
On this day as Chris and I walked and talked, I saw something brightly colored, out of place. Nestled in a small hollow in one of the cedars that grow in the park was the word “joy” painted on a rock. Some caring person had created it hoping another person would notice and appreciate it. I did and now it is treasured artifact in my home.
On the last day of Indian Summer 2020, I wondered, should I stay home and get some things done? Or should I hit the road again and see what the day had to offer? I made the right choice.
Everyday the news spoke about the bleak winter ahead that would engulf us with more sickness, death and heart ache. I felt the dread. I knew the warm sunny days would soon be just a dream. The weather became colder and colder and the light of the day grew shorter and shorter. The darkness came. It weighed heavy and we were all tired of it as it went on and on.
I have had other times in my life when I have been overcome by sadness. I remembered a particular time long ago when I thanked someone who helped me get through some very dark days. I give him a quote, carefully mounted and framed,
“In the midst of darkness
I found the sun within myself.”
I remembered that quote and it continues to remind me that how I experience the world is up to me. The news recently talked of our present battle between fatalism and hope. Somehow, some way, I must continue to choose hope. I must never forget that no matter how great the darkness, the sun will always reappear.
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