Driving East

IMG_1522I’ve been fortunate the past ten years or so since I started teaching in Bloomfield, New York, my morning commute takes me essentially due east. So, for the first few months of the year and the last few months – those which bookend all those jet-black, western New York mornings after daylight savings time – I’m driving into the sunrise. While some days the road glare gets a bit hard to face, most days driving east into the sunrise provides me with the most breathtaking views, and a steady stream of daily encouragement, more than I’d have anticipated a commute could provide.

No matter what the stresses of the morning, how fraught with anxiety or frustration, or the highs and lows of the night before, I pull out onto Route 20 and point my car east, toward the sunrise, and everything changes. As the calendar has transformed the late summer into the heart of fall this past month, I’ve been witness to a myriad of wondrous sights. Some days the sun dances on tip-toes over the tops of the trees at the horizon line. Others, the distant Bristol hills are shrouded in a gauzy haze. On cloudy mornings, the pink-orange sunglow peeks abashed through a white bank of clouds. On foggy days, the mist floats wispy and tender up out of the roadside hollows. As I whizz past the corn fields, the sunrise illumines the stalks like rows and rows of yellow candles.

And it’s all lovely, so lovely, every day different. And I’m reminded, again, and again, that no matter how bleak or dark the night has been, the sun rises, and there’s beauty to behold. Watching the sunrise has the necessary effect of bypassing my conscious mind, which would often pile claim upon claim in support of the premise that disorder and brokenness are all there are. But as my eyes take in the beauty before me, I forget all of that.

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Darts Into the Darkness

Up here in the frozen North, winter takes its toll on even the hardiest souls.

And here, in the middle of January, a week or so beyond Christmastide, it’s taking its toll on this hardy soul.

As much as I pay lip service to loving winter – the crust of snow over the backyard, the frosty mornings without and the toasty fires  within – there’s a large part of winter which just chips away at my soul like, well, like frostbite. You know, creeping up on fingers and toes until – yikes! It’s Donner Party time. So sleepy… Etc.

(The other day, I looked at my phone, and was told that sunrise was around 7:30 a.m. and sunset was around 4:30 p.m. That’s nine hours of daylight, by my count. And the remaining hours – I can’t even bring myself to say how many – that’s darkness!)

Darkness.

It’s enough to make a guy start quoting Johnny Cash lyrics, isn’t it? 

Because of this, or perhaps because of just the general nature of living, there are days, psychologically, where the interior can feel a lot like the exterior. The thought of bringing beauty into the world – writing a story, sketching a new idea for a painting or an illustration, even making a beautiful meal for friends or family – seems like an insurmountable amount of work.

Bringing beauty into the world. It’s an idea that on days like these, when the darkness on the news brings a heightened awareness of the encroachment of the darkness into seemingly every corner of the world, seems like more of an idea than an actual endeavor, a task which should be completed.

But it matters. Oh, how it matters.

Making things matters. Bringing beauty into the world matters.

Because every act of love, every act of creation, is shooting a dart into the darkness. And when we make art in all its forms – a poem, a painting, a comic, a novel, a meal, a scarf, a mug – we once again have a chance to fire a razor-sharp pointed weapon against the darkness. Because beauty is love. And love is power.

It’s the thing that Meg Murry realizes when she’s face to face with It on a desperate mission to rescue her father in A Wrinkle in Time. Love.

“That was what she had that It did not have. She had Mrs. Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and mother’s, and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’, and Aunt Beast’s. And she had her love for them. But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?”

When we make something beautiful, truthful, and good, we incarnate the Truth and wield it like a weapon against the darkness. Bit by bit. Dart by dart.

So fire away.