There are ebbs and flows to the weeks that make up the months of our years. There are weeks that we shuffle through with our head down, knowing we must get through it. We come out of those weeks hardly remembering what we did, telling ourselves it had to be done that way. This is how we wake up wondering what happened to a month when the calendar flips. Then, there are weeks we show up for, weeks that involve experiences we won’t have trouble remembering. Weeks we will go back to when we recall a time in our life. These are the weeks we wish we were living every week. I am thankful I had one of those this past week.
On Monday, Allyson and I greeted our good friend Christy Jo at PDX to spend the week with us. I have reached a moment in the year when I can take more time to spend with friends and enjoy this wonderful state I call home, and I am glad for it. We treated CJ to our typical welcome-to-Oregon-now-we’ll-blow-your-mind itinerary through the Columbia River Gorge. We started out at Vista Point with its panoramic views of the gorge, then headed down the road to check out several of the gorge’s famous waterfalls, particularly Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls.
We’ve had a great deal of rain recently, so the falls were all very powerful. CJ was wowed by their beauty, which gives us a warm feeling. There’s this urge whenever I see something beautiful to want to bring other people in on it. It is a pleasure to see people feel some of what you feel, and I get a lot of joy when someone shares the same sense of wonder with something that I do. With these waterfalls on the Columbia Gorge, it’s not a far stretch to be confident your visitors with feel some wonder.
CJ and I walked the trail climbing Multnomah Falls to its famous concrete bridge spanning the pool between the upper falls and the lower. We both pointed out to each other features and effects of the waterfall that we were impressed with. We walked a little farther up the trail to a corner above the point where the upper falls lands, where a wind of mist was blasting. CJ had this kid-like wonder standing in the shower of the mist coming off the falls, and I was glad to share those feelings as well. I closed my eyes and tuned in deeper to the sounds of the water hitting the rocks. I tried to turn off my discomfort with the cold mist and feel it soak my hair and face, to immerse myself in the coolness and get to know what it is like. It is something I want to know better in the way places become a part of a person.
For Thanksgiving, Allyson cooked her second turkey along with a spread of cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and giblet gravy. Our friends Sam and Dana joined us, bringing skillet cornbread, and two different types of pies. The house was filled with the edible smells of the holidays. There was this warm feeling permeating the house that had to do with smell and memory and friendship and love. How those things mingle in our memory when they happen simultaneously. How the smell of a well cooked-turkey can mean sustenance in many different ways if it has come at the right time in your life. This week these associations have returned in many ways and also had layers added to them.
On Wednesday, Christy Jo and I ventured out to the overlook near Devil’s Cauldron that is probably my favorite place to take people on the coast. As we drove there it began to rain, and I was not sure we would get a view at all, worried it would be totally covered in clouds
with no visibility. As we made our way around Wheeler, through Nehalem the clouds rose high enough that I felt good about us seeing out over the ocean, and sure enough we did. As we parked at Devil’s Cauldron, a rainbow emerged over the ocean. Our trip was receiving all these sensory blessings.
Out on the edge of the cliff, the ocean crashed in hundreds of feet below us, sometimes splashing 30 or 40 feet in the air. The water was white and foaming surrounding the jagged rock walls, the most angry I have seen the ocean from that particular spot. Both of us took moments standing to ourselves, marveling at the thing we were seeing. CJ said, “I love how the ocean makes no apologies for who it is. It does what it will, goes where it goes, and says, ‘here I am. Deal with my mightiness.'”
There have been so many moments this year where I’ve taken note of the hugeness of the world we live in, compared to our own individual lives. This world is complex. The systems that give life also take life. In moments we think we understand where something is moving the most, we are often rocked by the revelation that we did not have things figured out as we thought. Yet, we do also have our moments of influence on these giant things as well. Standing on top of that high cliff face, though it was good for me, standing with my friend to feel like a participating observer to this thing much larger than me, the participation today lying in just listening to what it was speaking, to understand something deeper.
On Saturday, our Thanksgiving guests back at their homes, Hope returned from her time with family. She visited to help Allyson and I decorate for Christmas. We built a fire, turned on my Christmas playlist and pulled boxes down from the upstairs closet. I have an enormous soft place in my heart for all things Christmas. Putting up decorations transforms a space for me to something that physically feels warmer on a dark cold day. I’ve spent many moments in the past two days, watching the lights on the trees twinkle, feeling this sense of peace with the anticipation of Christmas, the solstice, and the new year.
For Christians, we are entering the Advent season anticipating the coming of the baby Jesus, probably the most spiritually significant time for me. There are so many things we are waiting for this season. Some are things we wait on annually at this time. Some are things we have begun more recently to anticipate with greater longing. Some are things we will never completely be satisfied with that we can only hope we improve in our time here. On these days when the sun is more elusive, as we light candles, bring evergreens into our living space, as we anticipate the coming of a baby, there are so many things this year that I hope will come to pass.
I hope to see people on each side of our political divide acknowledge and accept each others fears and work together. I hope to see our strengths put to work and not our weaknesses constantly judged. I hope that those who have been mistreated find strength and redemption. I hope we do not repeat shameful mistakes from our history. I hope those who I love and respect who died this year are somewhere now and that my time with them is not done. I hope at camp in 2017 we do something important that helps people find themselves and grow their faith. I hope for new life that refreshes us, reforms us, redeems us. And I hope the Cubs win another World Series.
I am content, though, in these weeks of growing darkness, of colder days, of evenings sitting near the nativity set, just looking at them frozen in this moment of adverse hope. As much as we may have hints and clues, as much as we may think we know, we don’t know how our story ends. I don’t need that these days. It is warming to be thankful, it is nourishing to sit with my hope as the night and the rain descend.