He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.
I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?
Windy and cold.
All night, in gusty winds, the house has cupped its hands around the steady candle of our marriage, the two of us braided together in sleep, and burning, yes, but slowly, giving off just enough light so that one of us, awakening frightened in darkness, can see.
When I was in Divinity School, my preaching professor admitted, “It’s hard to choose which issue of justice is most important. Race? sexual equality? poverty? refugees?” He had sat through all our sermons, all our worries, and it’s true they were all over the map. In the face of so much injustice, we were tempted to despair.
“For me,” he said, “the main thing is creation care. That’s what it all has to come back to. If the world isn’t here anymore, in just a few generations…then what’s it all for?”
His words came to mind when I read this blurb just before Election Day:
I’m almost a single-issue voter. I’m not, but my thinking about … elected officials and what their purposes are begins and ends with how they approach health care. My thinking certainly visits all the other issues along the way … but number one among all the issues for me is health care. My reason for that is that I believe that you can’t really effect* positive change in any other area if your body (or your child’s body, or your partner’s body) is sick or not working. Nor can you effect change if you’re struggling to pay for – or even get – vital medicine for yourself or a family member. Nor, again, can you effect change in areas you care about if you’re in significant debt for medical care you’ve already received. You can even have a hard time effecting change in the political issues you care about if you merely live with the specter of not being able to access or pay for medical care for yourself or your family.
I think both men make a good point. Maybe I’d give a slight edge to Rob Delaney, over my preaching professor, because it’s true that we can’t advocate for environmental justice if our ill bodies are draining away all our advocating energy. Plus my prof said it’s basically too late anyway.
* Delaney is an intelligent man who can properly use “effect” as a verb.
Most people can’t; please don’t attempt it.
Our house went five days without power. We put a towel under the freezer and went to bed early. The room’s stuffy air felt hotter than the air inside my mouth.
Every day, we went outside to escape the silent house. In the softened, rain-soaked lawn, my husband planted rose bushes we’d bought before the storm. I pruned other roses that had survived the hurricane. Cars drove down the street, saw a blockade from flooding, turned and drove back.
I had just come outside with glasses of tepid water when an SUV stopped in front of our house. “Would you like some water?” asked the driver, holding out a glistening bottle.
“Oh.” Maybe he thought our water had been shut off. “Thank you, that’s okay. We have water.”
“But this is cold.” He got a second bottle from his trunk.
“Are you just out being a Good Samaritan?” Then I saw his name tag. He was from the local grocery store, the one I stop by almost every day on my way home from work.
“We’ll have blocks of ice tonight, too, in case you need to keep your freezer cold.”
“Thank you!” I held the two wet bottles and watched him drive away. We hadn’t had anything to drink but lukewarm tap water, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (It could have been worse — we could have had no water.) This guy came along at just the right time.
My husband’s T-shirt was dark with sweat. He accepted the bottle gladly, then got back to digging.
Mixed in with the paint, she used scratches and ash. Some of the ash banged off when we tried to hang the canvas.
An off-centered figure enters the painting, outlined in dark. I can’t tell if the figure is a man or a woman, and I think she did that on purpose. It has hands like mittens, cradling dark dirt.
Our bedroom is peppered with orange accents (which they say you’re not supposed to have in a bedroom, because the color wakes you up, but we do), so we wished her painting had orange. To match the pillows. We took the painting home and discovered that it did. The crouching figure, kneeling in the dust, has orange in its underarm, on its shoulder, dusting its kneecap. There’s orange smattered in the ashy chalk, orange highlighting knuckles. We were shocked. Now we loved the painting even more.
I waited patiently upon the LORD;
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
Psalm 40:1-2, Book of Common Prayer
We prayed through the psalms as a neighborhood, gathering in a makeshift chapel with homemade paintings on the wall and candles with wicks that sounded like rain. One neighbor told us Psalm 40 was her birthday psalm, one she’d read daily for the year. She said she pictured God stooping to pick up a baby in a crib.