These are the dark days, the stark and brittle days where black and white and every perceivable shade of gray fills the landscape and the horizon and even your mood as far as the eye can see and the heart can bear. As far as any eye can see there is dark and gray and this ominous foreboding like some early Hitchcock film. Sun and light and color have left this place for months now. So very long. Long enough to lose the memory of an iris or a rose, the azure of sky, the topaz of moving water; long enough to lose sight of all that’s good and warm and alive. All those things are long gone now, buried under winter’s weight, encased in its frozen tomb.
It’s so easy to forget all these things sitting here swallowed up under winter’s weight.
I feel less for complaining and entertaining this mood when people in more northern places live in complete darkness these long winter months. Do they really live, or do they merely exist holding on by their fingernails and tenuous strands of sanity? At least I have some hint of light, some indication there is a source of light behind this brooding sky. Yet, I wonder how they stand it, how they don’t go out of their ever-loving minds in sadness and despair. What sparks their memories and keeps the green of grass growing? What keeps their blood beating and hearts pumping, their lungs moving in and out, in and out?
I haven’t seen the sky for days now, just a thick swirled bank of clouds rippled gray and white, touches of black here and there. They hint of a coming squall, snow thick and heavy about to fall under its own weight. Every now and then there’s a thinning out, an almost discernible blue peeking through a scant ridge, just enough to offer up a memory, an almost deja-vu. But with a sudden gust higher up in altitude that hint is quickly hidden again by murky gray, that stubborn darkness settling in for a long winter’s nap.
I haven’t seen my chattering squirrel either, not for several weeks now. I can only hope he’s hunkered down deep in his leaf-piled nest nestled in the crook of the pine’s bow. I hope he isn’t a long-gone midnight snack for a lanky coyote. I worry for him. I worry about the strays and all the little things too young or too thin. Too weak. Where do they go? Is there anywhere full and robust enough to wrap them close and share its warmth under this bleak and sunless sky? I leave food outside; a tiny gesture in such expansive dark.
A cur cries in the distance, a crow caws overhead though I can’t see him. Two others shriek breaking the stillness. It’s a startling thing brisk and sudden as a slap. A long-dead leaf scuttles across crusted snow in fits and starts with the mounting wind. It screeches, stops lifeless, then moves on again in a long drawn out scrape as if remarking, “Here I am. I, too, once lived.”
Bare limbs sway and rub one against the other in their own wailing. “When will this end? We are cold. We are barren.” The crow calls again then swoops down from its lofty place, then another and another still till they’re squabbling low down against the snow, black on white like inkblots held before you (“What do you see?”), like stains on fine white linen.
Waking is just as heavy and startling a thing. The soupy sky echoes the day before and in that briefest moment before dreams fully give way all is well. There is the “Hello” and the Hope of a new day; plans to be made, projects to accomplish. But in a breath and a beat the old days and the old choices and the old decisions come drifting in and you’re weighted down once again. There is no sleeping this one off. Or that one. Sometimes what’s done is done and there’s no rethinking it, no remaking. We can’t relive a day.
So you wake once again to a day devoid of any discernible light and your wrongs still clinging like a bad dream. You lift up the covers but the weight remains, heavy, stifling, as if you’ve packed up that dream and slung it over your shoulder. You twist and drop your legs off the side of the bed, step down onto the earth and press yourself up to rise and go again, even in the faltering.
What choice do you have? You can’t slumber it away like some bear buried deep in her den.
If only I could.
If only I hadn’t of.
The morning moves along as all the weeks before: sleet and freezing rain fall, a translucent yet heavy coating, followed by snow then rain again. It’s a treacherous thing to leave the house when only the strong and brave, the desperate and needy dare traverse such a landscape. Your breath lifts then holds before you frozen in time and you almost hear it crackle before falling away. Bare branches black and gnarly like witches fingers rise up across the horizon, a bushy pine or two. A lone bird slips and slides to a stop on an empty apple branch, chirps to another. Such hardy dainty things.
Below still stands the framework of roses and raspberries which bear on under this weight. There they stand all glistening and refracting some unseen light like the translucence of wings of doves or angels. There’s a shifting between me and them and I close my eyes, open and look keener still and that’s when I see tiny flakes in cross sections of shovel-scraped snow and they’re all little gems, thousands upon thousands of diamonds in the rough, shimmering prisms embedded in this bland white tomb. In a moment light leaps up like a hearty, “Hello! Miss me?” and those bitter-cut jewels let loose blues and reds, purples and orange.
The heart leaps!
I look around at gray gone blue and turn my eyes upward to find an amber sun spilling from behind the edge of an ebbing cloud. It’s as if the sun lifts its own heavy blanket, tosses off its own winter weight, swings its rays over the edge and hoists itself high to meet another day. It’s soft and diffused at first, filtered through low-lying clouds and morning mist hanging thick in the air. But it presses on still, even faltering, soft as a whisper against your cheek, a kiss on your brow.
The heart leaps and Hope comes bounding in like that kooky friend with the goofy face full of hearty laughs and overly dramatic gestures. That’s when you shake your head and wonder where your faith went.
How could I have been so blind?
How could I forget?
Morning continues on in grand gestures spilling through every nook and cranny of sky. Rays like a bucket spilling from the sky illuminate all the bleak and broken things into a brow-burrowing glow, one giant prism offering up gold and magenta, sapphire and silver- glorious silver and gold as blinding as Glory itself. The heavens unfold as if some conductor gave his “Okay, now” nod: birds chirp and call, fly across your sight. There a Blue-jay, there a Cardinal as red as your heart’s blood. An icicle drips down fluid. Drips and drips, then drips again. Mr. Grey bounds from his nest and down the tree sneezing snow from his nose.
And it’s as if you just now remember how to breathe, to finally breathe, so you inhale deep and allow a smile to come. You let that smile spread as wide as the horizon despite the hows and whys and what nows, no matter the choices or decisions or unknowns. Those smiles, such hardy dainty things. But right here, right now you’re reminded how light looks, and that is enough.
That is everything.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.