And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten … And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied… – Joel 2:25-26
In Hinduism, Shiva is a deity who represents transformation. Through destruction and restoration, Shiva reminds us that endings are beginnings, and that our world is constantly undergoing a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. –Karen Salmansohn
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-27
It’s been a rough month. Have you ever had trouble getting your day started? Or keeping two thoughts strung together? Have you ever felt emotionally numb for days on end? During the past month Jim, the cats, all of our Cuchara neighbors and I experienced a wildfire evacuation that lasted 10 days. Most of us were lucky. By some miracle, the rain fell one afternoon, not for very long, but long enough for the firefighting teams to finally gain a foothold on the seemingly relentless Spring Fire in Colorado.
When we were allowed back home, life seemed to return to the “old normal.” But a “new normal” was about to make itself known. On July 16, my oldest sister passed away after a six-week illness. All along, we thought and prayed that she would rally, like she had twice before. As you might imagine, we were deeply saddened by her passing.
Recently we learned (first-hand) that dear friends in Redding, CA lost their home to the still raging Carr Fire. All their physical memories, medals, awards, photobooks, furniture, clothing, ancestral history, were gone in an instant. All the “things” that made them, well, them, vanished in the blaze. They are now embarking on their “new normal.”
The Constant Cycle
Another dear friend recently sent me a video clip of her infant grandson. Watching the video, the little guy’s outbursts of joy and laughter were contagious, and I could not help but smile and laugh along. There are few things that pull me out of the doldrums as effectively as a happy baby. To me, babies are God’s blessing to the earth. They seem to say, “I’m God’s promise to you that all things become new again. Life is worth living, or I wouldn’t be here. Remember to stay present, focused, and keep on loving all of life, no matter the appearance!”
As I sorted through pictures of my sister from her early childhood, I could hear my friend’s grandbaby laugh in the recesses of my mind. Pam laughed like that, and she laughed heartily and often. She had humor in her eyes from the time she was born. The video reminded me that I could always remember my big sister whose life was well-lived, who loved whole heartedly, and who laughed with abandon. Life is still worth living, albeit in a “new normal.”
The grass is already pushing up through the charred landscape around Cuchara. It’s another one of God’s promises, as the barren landscape returns to life. Among the lessons learned from the fire is that we have to clear and thin as much brush, live trees and dead trees from around our homes as possible. After all, living in the forest carries a responsibility and a “new normal” that we didn’t have in suburban life.
One of the officials helped me reframe the nature of fire. He said that fire is a necessary part of a greater life cycle of the forest. It is nature’s way of clearing out the old, dead debris that has littered the forest for the past 50+ years and making way for the new growth. It’s nature’s way of making all things new again. I had to reflect on what I needed to clear away in my consciousness, in my habits and beliefs. What is my “nature’s way” in my new normal?
In a recent Sunday service at the Cuchara Chapel, Rev. Justin Tull delivered his sermon around the passage from Matthew in Chapter 7, in which Jesus told the parable of the wise man who built his house on rock. The rest of Jesus’ admonition was to refrain from building your house on sand, because the rain and floods will wash it away. His message made me look inward again. Is my consciousness, my faith, and all I believe about God, built on rock or sand?
Where is my faith when crisis hits? Is it only an intellectual understanding of God’s unfaltering goodness? I have to say, there were times in the last month that prayer and meditation seemed hollow and a waste of time. I never really felt we were in danger, but I did regret that we didn’t have room to pack the family photos, Dad’s WWII uniform, Mom’s mink jacket, etc. My sister Cathy reminded me we had the most important “things” with us, each other. The rest was stuff, and no one would be upset if the physical “things” were lost. But they would be devastated if we were lost to the fire.
Armed with that perspective, and with the love and support of our fellow evacuees, I knew God would support us no matter what. (Okay, being evacuated to a lovely lodge was a “rock” of faith experience. I felt one sandy foot lift back onto the rock.) And then my brother sent the news of our sister Pam’s passing. Again, I felt like my feet were firmly planted on the rock. She had been quite ill, off and on, for years. I could understand the release of the physical body for the glory and joy of eternal spiritual life.
I felt (and still feel) sadness for her husband, who continues to grieve and love her deeply. I feel sad for our family who will miss her wit, talent and perspective on life, especially during football season. She was more informed about the teams and players than most sports broadcasters!
And then my friend in California told me she lost her home to a fire. I felt both feet slip right back into the gritty sinking sand bed. I cried for her loss. I cried for my grief. My mind raced between “I’m so grateful our home was saved,” to “How could this possibly happen?”
I then became very aware of Carol Tuttle’s book, Remembering Wholeness. It filled my field of vision, crowding out the other books on the shelf. I asked what it wanted me to know, as I turned to page 225. “Stop looking for the answers and understanding of your life outside of you. Clear the filters that are keeping the answers foggy and dim. Sharpen your intuition and spiritual gifts of knowing and discerning. As you do this, the Holy Spirit will plug you in to your answers and turn the light switches on to your truth.”
Right now, my truth is sitting with the unknowable. My truth is to stop asking the “why did this happen” question, because my human understanding cannot answer the “why.” And maybe the answer is not mine to know anyway. Maybe the answer is to look at my “new normal” and find the peace therein. Yes, these things happened. Now what will I do with them? I will love them for what they are. I will be kind to myself for the process of grief I’m going through, and I’ll be kind to the others who are going through similar processes. I will move forward, feeling for God’s grace at every turn.
I’ll leave you with another bit of wisdom from Karen Salmansohn:
“The part is not greater than the whole.”
“A challenging event of any kind is not everything. A challenging event of any kind is merely something going on INSIDE one’s life! A challenging event is NOT one’s WHOLE life. It’s just a slice – not the whole! And it’s up to us to keep this “slice of life” in perspective – and not allow the slice to become greater than the whole!”
Be kind to yourself when you are in a challenging slice of life. And be kind to those around you who are witnessing or experiencing their challenging slice. We are here to help each other find our own rock on which to build our life. We are here to hold out our hand to each other when our feet slip into the sand.
Bless you on your journey, and may you meet each challenging slice with the rock of strength, courage, faith in the Divine, and wonderful friends to support you on your path to your new normal.