I race from the back door across the back yard and slip into the alley, turning to see a full bush of pink and green smiling so brightly I have to accept her offering. I always regret the *snap* of the severing moment, cutting short what might have been a longer life, but she gives the gift so freely, I can't refuse.
I clutch the stem as I walk, mustering the courage to be awake amidst the gloom we've been subjected to this week. It truly is gloomy. All greys and fog and drizzle, not at all the bright glories of summer. What does July mourn for, I wonder?
There's barely an outline of mountain down the road, magnificence shadowed. My morning commute is often so life-giving -- this stretch of time that is wholly mine. Thirty minutes of thought or book or journal or dreams, punctuated by sunrise, distant mountains, rushing river, sleepy shops, and thrill of city. This week, the struggle is real.
I love a foggy morning. I do. The mystery of the unseen can be more breathtaking than beauty beheld. I love the crisp, cool wind that braces for change. But it's too early. July has just stretched her toddler legs and is learning to walk. Autumn can wait awhile, please. I donned leggings and resisted the scarf -- it is summer after all.
The trouble with gloom in summer is one must summon energy to see the light.
We get out of practice in the summer sun.
There is certainly something to be said about embracing the quiet shadow, letting it seep in and carve space in your soul. Time spent in the fog can reveal and heal and guide.
But then you discover that it is not really fog at all, it's not exactly the weather that is the culprit here. It's smoke. Smoke from wildfires so many miles away it seems impossible. The rain that has usurped the sunshine helps to clear the smoke -- a blessing others are crying out for all those miles away.
So I pick some flowers to brighten my desk, adorning this windowless space that feels darker for the gloom outside, though it's all in my head, inviting gratitude.
Sometimes the smallest things can lead to the brightest hopes.
In the elevator, a co-worker points to the stems in my hand and calls them weeds. Beautiful, but a vine that will take over the garden. I have mixed feelings.
Shouldn't beauty invade the world that way?
It's not a perfect metaphor. Good things grow in gardens and a weed shouldn't be praised.
How about grace then? What about hope?
I think there can be something lovely about the idea of a vine flourishing.
I didn't realize when I snapped the stem that there were still unopened buds connected. I keep them anyway and put them all in water. Mid-morning I turn for a glimpse of flower and rest my eyes on a miracle of hope.
Two of the buds had bloomed.
I don't know when, but what had been two green pods are now purple-pink blossoms, with another soon on its way. I wish I had witnessed the transformation.
I remember last July cradling my middle, swollen so and bound to swell larger. I dreamed of the transformation inside of me, wishing I could see every little development. A little one sheltered and shadowed in darkness. That was around the time she started responding to light.
This is a precious memory now, perhaps not lived so gracefully. And even in that, I wish I had witnessed the transformation.
We can never quite catch those moments. The flower bloomed, the fog cleared, the butterfly broken free, the heart changed. And yet we hope.
We hope to see through the fog, the smoke, the waiting, because we know there is more, there is life, there is light.
How do we know? How do we know there is something worth hoping for beyond the shadow? What is this instinct? Does a bud know it will bloom? Does a caterpillar know it will fly? Does it matter?? Do we know?
I wrestle with these questions often as I grapple for my hope and fight for my joy.
I fight the feeling of stagnation as I'm not creating a life or art and I try not to measure my worth by my creation. On good days I choose hope. I want to always choose hope, but the trouble with the daunting questions of life is that one must summon the energy to see the light.
I don't always know how to do that.
I don't always know for certain that there is beauty beyond the shadow.
But I hope. I want. I long.
Even in my darkest moments, something holds on to hope, something looks for brightness, something refuses to give up -- even unconsciously. It's human nature to want there to be more.
Now would be a good time to quote Hebrews 11:1, right? Maybe. Honestly though, I don't always feel assured of what I hope for. Maybe what "I hope for" isn't exactly what this verse is talking about anyway. At least not in this context. And sometimes the summoning of energy requires more strength than I have at the end of the day.
What I need is a filling. I need a transformation that sneaks up on me. An ambush of hope. I need rain that washes away the smoke, puts out the fire, gives life to the ground. I need an answer to this prayer:
May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. (Romans 15:13)
In the world that grows imperfect and broken things, please, God, please, let grace overrun. In a world of blue skies and strong mountains shadowed by smoke, of forests and fields swallowed by flames, please, God, let hope rain. Let weeds burst into bloom when we aren't looking. Let beauty pervade in all the brokenness. Let hope overflow and bubble over. Let that happen in me.
I picked some flowers on the way to the bus stop this morning. In this season of searching and praying and discovering, I purposefully opened my heart and chose hope.
May we continually be given the strength to summon the energy to see the light.