“In a time of destruction, create something.”
~Maxine Hong Kingston
Many people I know are teetering on the sharp, knife edge between despair and hope. Having just come through a holiday season in which we weigh the balance between darkness and light, we are unsure where the tilt of the scale is leaning. There is the constant barrage of real and created situations of chaos. Words and proclamations are used as weapons against the vulnerable and to lift false truths to the place of repeated fact. People are devalued, ignored, imprisoned for nationality, culture, and the color of their skin. Children are taken from parents and there seems to be no visible process for reuniting them. Our oceans are full of plastic bottles that once held…water. The ice caps are melting, the waters are rising and there are those who refuse to listen to scientists trained and educated in ways that could curb the looming disaster. Is it any wonder there is such a sense of falling into the firm embrace of despair?
I found myself in such a place last week. The gloomy skies and dirty, brown mounds of snow didn’t help to lift my mood. But the day had turned sunny and the temperatures had warmed a bit. Swimming in the stew I had fallen into, I made my way to a meeting and then was given this gift….
Driving around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, my eyes were stunned by the show in the late afternoon sky. I had to pull over and watch it arrive…allowing the wash of the colors shifting and flowing inward and outward as if they had an artist’s brush painting the enormous canvas right before my eyes. I watched as people also stopped their cars…people of all ages…and got out to snap a photo. Some turned the phone on themselves and took a selfie with this background…a gift of memory in what up to then had been an ordinary day sliding toward despair from some mountain of hope where we all long to stand.
As I watched the play of light and color and beauty, I found myself being lifted up. Yes, of course, all the things listed above were still true. And yet. And yet, there is the potential for such unexpected surprise in the middle of a day, in the middle of a week, at the beginning of a new year. Isn’t it possible that someplace at the deepest wisdom of the Universe there exists a creativity that says: “Hey! Look at this! Rise to this!” Isn’t it possible that that same creative spirit lives not only in the flowing, flowering of sky but also in humanity? It is difficult to embrace this call on our creative selves when we are free falling into the lap of despair. So we need wake up calls.
I don’t understand why a sky turns the colors it did last week. I don’t understand the temperature or light or chemicals or energy and their combinations that painted the heavens with this awe inspiring image. Yet I am thankful for not only the breathtaking beauty of it but also for its life line thrown out just in time. Just in time to pull me up toward the hope and creative promise of what might be possible. Just in time to offer the gift of pure, raw joy.
The writer Anne Lamont writes in her newest book: “Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared and yet designed for joy.” Truth. And somehow it seems to me that we have the capacity to mend the brokenness when we come from a place of hope and joy and creativity instead of the pit of despair. And so I give thanks for the wake up call and the renewed commitment. Sometimes it simply takes a really amazing, in-your-face cosmic moment that can happen on an ordinary January day telling you to “snap out of it!” There is beautiful, hopeful, joyful work to be done and so on we go…