If you are reading this from your home in the northeastern US then you are probably recovering from about 36 hours of chaos. Thanks Climate Change! What the heck was that? It was a "bomb cyclone" and something that we are all going to have to get used to. Regular readers know that one of its early victims was my beloved Subaru Crosstrek. That was just the opening volley of a very strange day. The parsonage is one of a half-dozen old houses built in a swampy spot along the Charles river. In heavy rain our lawns become lakes and so do our basements. The morning scene was quite impressive. It only got wilder as the day went on. Like pretty much everybody in our neighborhood, we quickly lost power.
That was all yesterday. This morning we woke up to the general mess that happens when you don't know you are making a mess. Outdoors there was detritus everywhere. Indoors it looked like three humans, three cats, and a dog held a rager all night long. I remember this sort of mess from camping. After all, what is a "camp", tent, or hunting cabin other than a house without power?
Yesterday, at 4:30 in the afternoon, I came inside after making a last desperate attempt to save things from my destroyed car. I noticed then that I could no longer read or write without a light source. What had happened was that the storm had kicked up again and the dimming light from the dying day just couldn't penetrate the inside of the house. Without electricity it gets very dark very early and you don't even see all the things that need cleaning. How do we entertain ourselves, much less tidy up from dinner?
I have already speculated this Advent on what it must have been like before all our modern conveniences. The stakes were higher for the solstice then. However, it feels like the bomb cyclone of 12/18/23 was a lab project for experiencing things the way our ancestors did. This is what they dealt with every single year. The night grew longer. The storm season came. They needed to make sense of things as they made provision for food, warmth, and shelter. Light, my friends, was a second-tier concern. They told themselves stories as they went to bed earlier and rose later. The "long winter's nap" matched the movement of the sun. People were vulnerable during this time in a way we are not. Given those circumstances, I would be looking for miracles, too.
This week--for a short period of time--we were forced to live closer to nature. Yes, some homes had generators, I know. There was one house in our neighborhood like that and we all heard the rumble. The rest of us were dependent on the rise of our primal selves. This was subtle for some and more explicit for others. I used the primal energy to solve numerous basic problems that humans have always encountered. In the drafty old parsonage I needed to grab blankets in anticipation of a cold snap that never arrived. I had to figure out how to cook. To the best of my ability, I tried to keep up with holiday planning at church. We also needed to figure out how to entertain ourselves, which was easier for the humans than the pets. There is a reason that we love our conveniences.
In the end we did settle down to bed a bit early, after chores and last-minute attempts to salvage a day of work. The salvage attempt, by the way, was not successful. I think that with all that has happened lately, God is telling us that this will be an imperfect holiday. Then, after a while, there was nothing to do but wait for a new day...
I hope that you all managed to get something out of the darkness. When this has happened to me in the past, I didn't feel that there was as much entropy in my life as there is right now. Still, the ancients managed the seasons all the time, celebrating when it made sense to do so. So...let's manage what we can and celebrate when we can. This is our one life in the darkening earth.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.