Lamp Lighting in a Darker World

The Lamp Post in the City by Erik Hennigsen, 1897
The Lamp Post in the City by Erik Hennigsen, 1897

As Pacific Northwest rains subdue the palette of nature, I find the light that much more remarkable. It flares, retreats, accumulates in small places, bores through density of fog or shadow in a brilliant beam. It pools about treetops and people in opalescent auras when least expected. And it seems to hide for long periods. Though grayness leaches warmth from our emerald green, I know the sunlight is there. I am heedful of its oft-ephemeral illumination, discover it in watery reflections, the clinging air, a wind-upended sky. Although I am at home in shadow and dark (both are gradations of light in my thinking), the light calls me.

I have often felt my living is a motley, persistent series of advancements toward greater light. Toward more expansive and intriguing horizons than the one left behind. The locomotion is naturally not always rapid or connect-the-dots forward movement, but it incorporates motion even in apparent stillness. As we live and breathe, the body, mind and soul effect a rhythmic synergy. And both literal and figurative walk/run/pause/walk/run/pause includes this very moment, a kaleidoscopic experience. Aliveness offers such creative largess.

Humans are such restless creatures. So much to be explored, embraced, utilized, redesigned, discarded. We feed the engine of curiosity even in rest and sleep. And the soul seems to circle ’round us, waiting, when we are not attentive to its well-being, too. My belief is that Grace interacts with free will as we construct and inhabit our lives. (Note a meaning of synergism defined in my old The American Heritage Dictionary: “2. The doctrine that regeneration is effected by a combination of human will and divine grace.”)  I awaken from the refueling and instruction of dreams, sort their meanings, get up, seek what may be next. I start the day with optimism tempered with prudence.

I do not think often about the past, nor the future. Intellect, intuition and feeling guide me in daily choices. I believe God also stirs us, beckons us. And moves between and within our global and personal spheres–and far beyond.

But for some time I kept setting up camp in the past, no matter how far I had come, regardless of updated versions of reality. Magnetically sly, the past would pull me to both nostalgia’s perfection and various brutal remembrances. It is said that familiarity is more secure even if not good for us. Perhaps that is so, otherwise we’d be moved to improve more, faster.  Still, I looked backwards to better gauge where I ended up, to help determine where I wanted to go. It was inefficient at best, self-defeating at worst. There was, I found, relief to be had by remaining in the moment. And more than that, ubiquitous opportunity for change. There was no time to waste on what had gone before. I started a new habit of pulling my mind from past to present by attending to what was in front of me–the work, the play, the person, the place.

The future is much trickier to manage. Even with decent foresight, with calculations to gauge odds and extensive history to inform decisions, I find myself unwilling to predict much of any significance. Experience tells me very little I imagine for good or ill will be quite as I imagined it. It is often, in fact, another thing altogether. I prefer it that way. I cannot think of life without wide-ranging and unknown factors. What motivates me is having expectancy, not of something in particular, necessarily, but of just something. I always want to know what’s coming around the corner. I draft a loose plan and move on, all the while keeping a look out as the next moment happens. And there is always more than I can absorb even when I fell acutely aware. The future is really only the moment following this period. And even that is up for grabs.

As 2015 draws to a close I look over my shoulder deliberately, as we all do, I suppose. It has been punctuated by losses and struggles. My oldest beloved sister died in April near my birthday. I was hospitalized for heart arrhythmia and tests in June. A family member was plagued by suicidal ideation; it was a long summer of recovery from her debilitating depression. I lost another relative to suicide some years ago and still feel his leaving, so this was a time of constant vigilance for me.

And, too, I damaged my foot and was unable to walk much for a few months. My other sister had a bad hip replaced and I stayed with her for a week to assist. One of my brothers had an emergency heart surgical procedure last week. And my brother-in-law, the husband of my deceased sister, passed suddenly eight months after she left us. His funeral service was also last week.

And then, Paris. And San Bernardino. Ceaseless tragedies and crises continue in our world. Grief is a river that gathers us all and we hold to each other, try to float the best we can. It can be disorienting. Stupefying.

None of this did I clearly anticipate happening. I have had premonitions, concerns, anxious moments. We know we take a chance daily in this world; we are mortal. So as life has unfolded these ways, I have done what most of us do: pray and ready myself for the hard road ahead.

And yet. And yet. I am filled with surprise at the wonders, too. The outpouring of care from friends. The edification and warmth of my weekly church women’s circle. My children’s and husband’s love and steadfastness. Finding the humor in seeming limitations and small absurdities in my busy days. Noting good improvements in many lives. The deep appreciation of the health I have, the freedom it affords. Visitations of miraculous moments with nature. The blessings of service to others. Thought-provoking, meaningful creative activity others engage in and my own sharing of writing and other arts. The presence of God in my life every moment. Here, now.

After Roland, my brother-in-law, died and I was treading that current of sorrow, I sat at my computer and downloaded and imported my camera’s photos. Then I clicked on “open folder” as usual and what filled the screen was not my latest pictures from a walk but three of Roland and my deceased sister, Marinell. The pictures were from over two years ago: one of my sister, one of her spouse and one of them leaning close together. They were smiling at the camera I had been taking pictures with at the barbecue on my niece’s deck. I frowned, frustrated, and then a chill shot up my spine. They were smiling right at me. They were right there. This folder had not been opened in over two years. I had not been searching for other photos before importing my current pictures. Their pictures just came right up, for me, that day, that moment. I began to cry, but in relief and gratitude.

Say what you may, but I felt the room fill with their presences. They both believed in eternal life; they believed in angels. Especially Roland, a fearless pilot US Navy and then for decades a commercial airline pilot. And he died in a major airport that was the main hub for his flights.

Roland liked to share stories of how often he felt his life had been saved by what he felt was divine intervention. He knew how connected to God I feel and that this life is a thin veil. He used to tell me how important it was that others knew, that they needed to understand there were angelic beings watching over us, helping us. He once insisted I write of angelic guides and his usually laughing and deeply blue eyes–those of a bright, discerning, courageous man–gleamed with deep emotion.

So I am sharing this experience for him: they came to me even though I wasn’t searching for anything, even though it was impossible that those pictures would suddenly come up like that. I understood they were just saying: Hello, we are together again. We love you. 

But I have not been able to find the pictures–none of them–since that day. Maybe one day I will sort it out; I’m in no hurry today.

I have been enjoying an interactive Advent calendar in the style of Victorian times. There is a lamplighter who methodically lights each lamp along a darkening street very time it’s evening. If I was walking along with him, I would glance back at the glowing spots spilling into the velvety dark. I could note where we were coming from and it would be a different story than the one I saw before I had moved on. I would be able to see things I had missed before because it is our perspective which changes things.

But I would rather choose to see the newly illuminated portions of the journey, to glance right and left and just before me. I am not afraid because I am not alone here on this planet. And there is much coming forward into the amber light. Life is the thing afoot and it takes on varieties of form. What lives seeks regeneration here and in the universe, yet the complexity at the heart of it all is simple in its wholeness. We are made of star dust (water and carbon), after all.

The darkness of the walk before my feet and the distant pathways–all unseen. Sensed, perhaps; glimpsed, even–but the specifics remain unclear. They will most certainly be disclosed step by step. Revelation is that beacon light, a call to seek and find, the Spirit that startles and fills me to overflowing and gives me peace. And sometimes  unpredictable, even difficult change. But there are always chances to get stronger and deeper, to discover and solve, to praise amid the letting go. To better fit my true nature. Let the living expand and glow within the grayness, inside the light.

Keep your own beautiful lights burning. When you think the flame is flickering, shield it, watch over it, give it air and space, seek aid from others. I’ll be looking for you and passing on peace along the way.

 

Postscript: Since it is Christmas soon and we will have a full house, I am taking a brief vacation from blogging. If I find extra time and am so moved to write, I’ll toss a few words in. Otherwise, I hope to see you all in January 2016.

And for those of you who celebrate it, have a lovely Christmas!

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

15 thoughts on “Lamp Lighting in a Darker World

  1. Having experienced so much of the grayness and blackness of the world too, kindred souls along the way seem like flares. What deeply stirring, excellent writing. Thank you! Have a wonderful Christmas.

    1. Ah, yes, sympatico is a needed experience, and I, too, am so appreciative of those along the path who share their light. Or who get to discover it as I get to see it happen as I did with counseling so many years. Hope is a peaceful warrior for Love. Blessings to you Thanks for the good words and have a Merry Christmas, too!.

  2. Cynthia, I was deeply touched by this post. I especially loved “I have often felt my living is a motley, persistent series of advancements toward greater light.” How well you express the human journey! May the solstice, and the Christmas celebration, bring you a little closer on the journey towards light.

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