Sunday, September 11, 2011

Light in the Dark

“For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.” 
                                                                      (Mohandas Gandhi) 

The sun is out today.  Still a startling rarity after dark days of nearly nonstop rain that made us forgot all complaints of a hot summer.  A crazy summer all over our country—fire, drought, heat waves, flooding, a mid-Atlantic earthquake.  Mother Nature is acting out our human woes on a grand scale. 

We are out of work. We are losing our homes.  We can’t get treated properly for our illnesses because we can’t afford it.  We are struggling to put food on the table for our children, if indeed we are lucky enough to have a table.  Teachers fight to give our children a good education in inadequate facilities with inadequate budgets even for books in some cities.  Crops are decimated, and precious animals are in danger of becoming extinct.  We work twice as hard and twice as many hours for the same or half the pay.  Americans are choosing between food and healthcare. 

And today we commemorate an unthinkable tragedy, an unprecedented assault on American soil, ten years ago but just a blink away in our memories.

In all this dark, where is the light?

In the pond out my window, adult geese and ducks glide across the surface with their goslings and ducklings.  A great blue heron soars to the very top of a tall tree.  I walk out of my house and a squirrel just outside who just nabbed a nut somewhere in the woods (and is bringing it to hide in one of the container plants I keep out front, to dig up in winter) freezes, thinking perhaps if he doesn’t move I won’t notice him.  I greet him, and the birds hopping nearby for seeds, and assure them I mean them no harm. This simple ritual, repeated day after day to squirrels, birds and chipmunks alike, makes me very happy.   

I drive out of my driveway and wave hello to one or the other of my neighbors out walking their dogs, and if I’m not rushing to an appointment, I slow and roll down the window for a more personal hello. If I’m very lucky before I even get into my car I run into my favorite beagle Penny (and her owner) and get some doggie love from this precocious canine. (If I somehow miss her, I still can revel in her antics on her “mom’s” Facebook page, with daily sharing of her pet’s mischief.)

I go to my town center, and cross the square where kids are scrambling up and down the boulders put out for that purpose, and people of every age and color stroll, and if I’m very lucky it’s a night with free music in the square.  I head into my neighborhood library, and, well, everyone knows what a land of enchantment a library is, don’t they?  I am like a kid in a candy store—or a kid in a library—in awe of all the choices, all the stories housed there that will transport me to another country, another time, another great author’s imagination or memory, for escape, deeper insight, or good laughs.

I go to a local swim center where for 45 minutes a day I am enveloped in the warm womb of the water. I jump around in my water exercise class and celebrate my body’s flexibility and agility where gravity is not my enemy.  I admire my much older classmates who are there celebrating their bodies too, in their 60s, 70s, 80s even, reassuring me that the water will always be my haven and exercise always available to me. 

Everywhere I go, despite their personal troubles, people still smile as they pass one another on the street, in the halls.  When I’m feeling really down, a smile from a stranger goes a long, long way.  I pay it forward as often as I can. We’re all putting one foot in front of the other, doing our best, navigating a confusing, changing way of life in a time where, the newspaper just informed me, one in three Americans my age are living in reduced economic circumstances from the previous generation.  It’s in stark contrast to the obscene wealth that somehow persists in some communities in our area.  But rich or poor, we all have our trials. 

And we all get up each morning to a new chance at life, a new hope of things improving, a new opportunity to be with the people we love, and a new urging to smile at strangers as we pass, or better still, stop and say hello and see how we might help one another. And remember a day of great sacrifice that, in so many ways then and since, called on us to bring out our best selves.