Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

--Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Photo: (c) iStock.com / Timofey Zadvornov (image #859871484)The other night as David and I sat by the fireplace enjoying the first fire of the season I was forced to admit to myself that all the long sunny days of September and October did not in fact mean that summer had never really ended. Now the clocks have been turned back, making it impossible to ignore the way dusk has been creeping toward late afternoon, falling earlier and earlier each day.

I have trouble welcoming the shorter, darker days of late autumn and early winter here in Oregon. When the rain begins, and the soft gray skies speak only of sameness, a certain light turns off in my brain and saps me of energy and creativity and hope. But this year’s extra weeks of sunshine have given me some time to prepare. Yes! I do have a full spectrum light. Yes! I do make myself go outside for a short walk in natural light every day. Yes! I DO have Vivaldi and Mozart cued up and ready to go on my phone.

But more than all those lovingly offered and happily accepted bits of native Oregonian wisdom for fighting the seasonal blahs, I have begun to focus on gratitude and, as its sequel, hope. This begins with a daily tallying of the “things” for which I feel thankful – my family, my home, pastoring and belonging with Kairos, the way the light falls on the golden tree…I write a list every day, and each day’s list is long. But gratitude is more than thankfulness for things I have already in some sense received. It is also a forward-facing attitude toward what will be each day. Gratitude in the face of life’s vicissitudes is not a tool for denying the pain of life, but of contextualizing it. As David Whyte wrote:

Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live
together and mesh together and breath together in order for us to take even one more
breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating
human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously, part of something, rather than
nothing, Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of fields, the freshness of a
cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.

That kind of thankfulness requires only that we pay attention and allow ourselves to be present both as participant in life and witness to the lives around us. Steeped in gratitude and aware that there is some divine grace at work that has brought us to this day, to this moment, my hope is renewed.

As that first fire of the season becomes a weekly or even daily pleasure, my reading will turn to works of hope. Next up: DeRay McKesson’s “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope,” and Ann Lamott’s “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.” What will you be reading as the days grow short? For what are you giving thanks this season?