I didn’t wake up until 7:36 this morning.
While this may not seem all that out of the ordinary to every reader, for someone who normally wakes up with the sun, when the sun didn’t come out this morning, my body didn’t wake up either.
“The sun must be sad today, Mama,” my younger son said to me a couple minutes later when all four of us eventually rolled out of bed.
“Yes, it really must be sad,” I replied. With late summer wildfires having consumed millions of acres up and down the west coast, it wasn’t a surprise (at least not to meteorologists) that residents in California and Oregon woke to apocalyptic orange skies on a seemingly random Wednesday morning.
But for me, I take note of the myriad emotions pulsing through my body.
What I yearn to feel is curiosity—curiosity for a phenomenon of nature I’ve never experienced before in my life. I am reminded of the time the sky went black a couple of summers ago, when the moon blocked the light of the sun for a couple of holy minutes. Along with my parents and my sons, an eclectic group of neighbors came together, front lawns dotted with lawn chairs and blankets and free solar eclipse glasses from the local fire department.
The day felt jovial. We sang a capella choruses of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and chatted with my parents’ neighbors, some new, some old. As the solar eclipse neared, an eerie silence fell over us. We knew not to talk, not to whisper, not to even try and breathe; we knew that holding a peak view of this moment was something we’d never again see in our lifetime.
Today feels different, though. Instead of curiosity, I feel sadness. Instead of joy, an air of lament fills the air around me.
I gather not with my neighbors, for together we choose to keep our distance—the space between us a gift of justice to one another. When we mingle at the grocery store or the post office, I hope they see my smiling eyes, a head nod here, eye contact there, a raise of friendly eyebrows from me to them.
But now, alone in my office, I stare at a staged backdrop of burnt orange sky and am rendered mute to any sort of response.
When civil unrest continues to beat down upon Black and brown lives in our country, when the pending election feels more divisive (and critical) than ever before; when beastly fires devour acre upon acre in the only places I’ve ever called home, and when darkness doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to let an ounce of light in, there’s nothing left for me to say.
It doesn’t feel like there’s anything left for me to pray.
But if I stumble my way through an ancient collect, does that count for something?
We praise you, God,
that the light of Christ shines in our darkness
and is never overcome.
show us the way we must go to eternal day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I say the words aloud. I chew images of light and darkness around in my mouth, wrestling with the phrases like gristle on a bone.
Sometimes a paragraph feels like too much for a single day, though.
My mind wanders back to a passage in The Silver Chair. Perhaps not unlike today, when the Queen of the Underland tried to convince the children, the prince and the marsh-wiggle that the sun was but a tale, Jill mustered all her strength to utter two words:
And with that name, the spell stopped working. The travelers reminded one another of truth and came together as a team, once again. Together, they began to climb their way out of darkness.
Could it be the same for me, for you, for us?
God, I say.
God, God, God, I breathe in and out. I imagine the hot breath of God-in-me breaking through glass window panes, smearing new life onto the ash-covered patio and garden in the backyard below.
For now, this single name is all I can say. But as I stare into hellish sepia skies, I think maybe, just maybe, this one word is enough.
[Image Credit: Cara Meredith]