The days get shorter and shorter, as we move into December. Living farther north than I ever have in my life, the shortness is more pronounced, just like the longer days were in the summer. It makes December more Decembery. It’s been windy this week. There’s been some rain, but it hasn’t been constant. Those strong breezes, bending the spruces and cedars has been audible just about every day and night, though.
There’s nearly always some sort of wind on the coast, so I’m not always as tuned into wind as I was living in the South. During a Southern summer, you might go weeks without feeling anything worthy of the name, “breeze.” So, just about any time there was wind, my senses perked up to it. You could tell something was arriving or leaving–a change was in the air. Here, that ocean is always bringing some sort of wind, so you have to tune yourself into the changes. It’s not all that difficult to tune into those–they make themselves very noticeable.
The Advent season began last Sunday, ushering in this time to reflect on the coming of the baby Jesus and the coming of light back into the world after these increasingly dimmer days. I am pretty passionate about Advent and Lent, because they give me a way to really focus myself spiritually for a period of time. I love Christmas. I love the carols, love the decorations, love the old movies and cartoons, t
he food, and the weather that accompanies that. But, I also think we wear ourselves out on Christmas before it even gets here. Advent was begun to get us in touch with waiting, with hoping. So, this week, I started trying to connect with that part of the season.
If you follow the blog, you probably noticed I started posting a haiku each day. I’m not trying to pawn this off as quality literature–I’m not sending them off for publication. It’s just an exercise to try to get me to reflect each day, to try to tie some experience or some thought into something more spiritual. There are so many days I find myself sleepwalking through life. Allyson asks me what I did today, and I can’t even tell her. And, it’s not that I didn’t actually do anything–it’s that I wasn’t really present to it. This kind of stuff helps me be sure to pay attention to what happens each day. And, maybe I don’t get to a year or a decade and feel like I’ve done that with my life.
This week I led an Advent study for the camp staff. We convened around the fireplace in the dining hall. As I walked there, the wind was blowing pretty strong, shaking the trees pretty violently. Whitecaps marched across the lake. The surge of energy went through me, feeling how much the air around me was moving. I wanted to absorb a little of that, to maybe hear something this wind was saying, to know what it would feel like at the top of those trees, swaying so strongly.
I built a fire before everyone arrived. I used the coals left over from previous fires as kindling. I fanned the little flame, and it caught those small, leftover pieces enough to rise up and burn through the fresher logs. I am a sucker for fires, for watching them start, for keeping them burning. I want to balance sitting next to my fireplace in the evenings equally to the nights I spend watching something on a screen, because the both seem equally engaging to me.
On Friday, I began my other 2015 Advent practice, a weekly daylight-long fast. I missed out on a free lunch at Pirate’s Cove, but those kind of things put the practice in more perspective. If you do the fast right, it weakens you in a way that slows you down, but I’m not talking about a cranky, headachey slow down. I mean that type of slow down that leads to reflection, the type of slow down that makes you pay more attention, the type of slow down that leaves you more appreciative of what’s in your life.
At the end of the work day, I turned off the lights and locked up the office. It was not 5pm yet, but was nearly dark already. This whole year has been one of upheaval. We picked up our lives and flipped them to go to a place we had never been. We’ve been learning something totally new. There have been highs and lows at camp, and I have seen it in the people around me too. I made my way to the beach slowly, feeling the hunger. When I made it out to the beach, I listened to Sufjan Stevens’ version of Holy, Holy, Holy.
I stood next to the surf as the song played, and I sang along watching the waves and the gray clouds in the sky. The ocean came right up to my feet as if it was acknowledging me, then it went back out, far away from me. Tears rolled down my face because of this jumble of emotions that was welling up. There was the hunger, but there was the gratefulness, the awe for the ocean and sky, the uncertainty about this world and me in it, but the love that wells up for it too. Then there were those old, sacred words, in my ears, and we humbly sang there together. The wind came on and washed over my face.
Walking home, I thought of so many things I love, and how simply and purely they exist in my life, how they enter in and linger as I grow and move. I thought of Allyson and how she gives me so much hope, and that made me think about much I want to give her hope in this life. When I returned home, Allyson was cooking dinner, so I would have a warm meal to break my fast. I felt so much warmth, so much thankfulness. It was surrounding me. It made this meal even more special, made the night even more meaningful. As we sat at the table together, eating warm bowls of stew, I felt the humble hope of Advent, but strangely at the same time I felt something already fulfilled. It was all swirling and moving around at once, and we will both continue to sway with it.