When a friend of mine told me earlier this week about Thomas Moore's Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals, I thought that reading it might deepen my understanding on behalf of those I meet with for spiritual direction. But I've found that everything Moore writes speaks directly into my own experience.
It's been a while since I've fallen so immediately and so completely into a text this way.
In reminding us of the benefits of the dark night, Moore says, "Darkness and turmoil stimulate the imagination in a certain way. They allow you to see things you might ordinarily overlook. You become sensitive to a different spectrum of emotion and meaning. You perceive the ultraviolet extremes of your feelings and thoughts, and you learn things you wouldn't notice in times of normalcy and brightness."
So very true.
We've been in our house for a little more than a year, and all summer when Jack would come in from working on the lawn, he would mention that the side yard was really uneven. We talked about what we might do, but, really, I didn't notice the problem. I walked all over our yard barefoot and it didn't seem bumpy to me.
Then one night in late summer, I walked across the side yard in the dark to get a look at the moon through the trees. I couldn't believe how uneven it felt--ankle-turning uneven. All because I was feeling my way in the dark.
Moore also says that "the dark night of the soul provides a rest from the hyperactivity of the good times and the strenuous attempts to understand yourself and get it all right. During the dark night there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. . .The dark night is more than a learning experience; it's a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for. " Things to ponder as the dark of winter soon settles over us.
And, finally, The dark night saves you from being stuck in your small life."
And I'm barely into the first chapter. I will probably have more to say about this in the near future.
I do not like Merle Hay Road. Merle Hay Road is a traffikky, congested stretch of road lined with businesses, parking lots, signage, and traffic lights. In order to avoid it, I typically use Northwest Beaver. More trees, open land, a lot less going on.
On Thursday, I needed to go pick up some lunch on Merle Hay Road, and decided I would cut across on N. W. 55th to Northwest Beaver. As I turned onto 55th, I saw the sign clearly stating ROAD CLOSED. Well, it didn't look closed, so I figured I would just do it anyway. At a half mile, another sign was posted. ROAD CLOSED. "Nah," I thought. "I can do this." I drove all the way to the end, where 55th intersects with Beaver, and guess what? The road was closed.
But I don't like Merle Hay, I whined to myself as I turned the car around. Yes, well, that's fine, but if you want to get anywhere, you're going to have to make peace with Merle Hay Road.
And that speaks to me on all sorts of levels. All that energy I mentioned? People energy. My work can be really traffikky and congested. People need a lot from our staff, and can really get in the way of getting things done in any streamlined manner. To "make peace with Merle Hay Road" means that I will have to work with and include and cooperate with other people even when I don't want to. It means that I will have to go through the proper channels when I would rather strike out on my own in order to get things done. It means accepting delays, interruptions, the views and opinions of others, and whatever other traffic may play into the scheme of things. And to be willing to slow down and trust God to do God's part of it.
Last Wednesday, I had a "dog day." A happy thing. (I like dogs, I really do. Just not in my house, or licking me, or jumping on me.) Before work on Wednesday morning I stopped in Walgreens to pick up some pictures, and the nicest man helped me. While he was ringing up my purchase, he said, "I just got a new dog last night."
"Wow," I said. "What kind?"
"A Teddy Bear."
"Oh," I said. "I hear those are great dogs."
"I hope it was the right decision," he said.
Then he explained that he has a Bichon, a four year old, that he'd gotten when he retired from working for the federal government. When he decided to go back to work part time, the dog hadn't adjusted. He got the second dog to keep him company.
He asked if I have a dog, and I told him sometimes I'm tempted to get a Westie. I told him about the morning Jack and I went for a walk and we met someone on the trail with four Westie puppies. As I was leaving, he assured me that I must get a dog.
"You need a dog," he said. "You really do need to get a dog."
Later the same day when I went for my walk, I passed the Beagle puppy who's sometimes tethered in his front yard when I happen by. This time his owner was outdoors, so we visited, and I learned the Beagle's name is Jackson, and he is now six months old. I told Jackson's owner, Kevin, about Sarah and Carl's Beagles, and how they recently adopted Frank, a rescue Beagle. I didn't tell him the name of their original dog. His name is Kevin.
With winter coming, the summer crew has departed and we now have juncos (one particularly aggressive one who drives the others away from the feeders), a variety of woodpeckers, a pair of cardinals and a white-breasted nuthatch. I hope he has a mate. He's a joy to watch.
Indeed, winter is on the way. Jack and I came back to La Crosse today, and driving up the River we saw eight or nine bald eagles and huge flocks of giant white birds. We're not sure what those were. We also watched the temperature drop from 60 degrees to 39. It will be a while before we see 60 degrees again, we think. We're hoping to wake up to snow tomorrow morning.