These two words have so much in common — four letters i, g, h, and t — and yet, so little, really. My life right now feels like a see-saw between both and must be examined. I believe that many others are also experiencing this in their lives, as well, because of the influence of Covid and Ukraine on each of us. Let’s unpack some of my assumptions.
Within the small circle of my life, home, family, neighborhood, Quaker community, and activist friends, all is well, suffused in light. Yesterday, at a late lunch with my son in Cambridge, at a Japanese restaurant new to each of us, Shabu & Mein, we hugged, laughed, oohed at the beautiful, unusual, and excellent food, and caught up on all of our news. Then, Jack (John to everyone else) drove home, dropping me off at the Beachmont T stop by my car. It was a jewel of an afternoon, leaving me feeling loved, appreciated by, and connected to one of the most important people in my life.
In this story, I left out an unexpected impediment in an otherwise perfect time: Toscanini’s ice cream, where we often stop for dessert, was closed, as they are on Monday and Tuesday. We agreed to never again meet for lunch on a Monday or a Tuesday, to avoid this dire situation.
Do you know Toscanini’s? They may have the very best ice cream on the planet, occasionally changing their flavor offerings. Last time we were there, I got cardamon and fig in a chocolate cone. Yum. They always have dairy-free choices for Jack, too.
So, that’s about the worst thing that happens in the small circle of my life, that my favorite ice cream place is unexpectedly closed. This morning, when I looked out my bedroom window, across our driveway to the shrubs on the other side, I watched a cardinal land, picking around for a snack. He was quickly joined by a wren and a sparrow, then flew off. Seeing a cardinal always makes me catch my breath. Isn’t each of them a miracle, to be flying around so brightly and beautifully? Even the bluejays have that effect on me. (Sorry, wrens and sparrows — I do think you’re beautiful, too.)
There is so much light in my life — tiny events that remind me of the beauty, the kindness, and the pleasures around me every day, events that unsettle my senses, even for a moment. Let me always welcome these interruptions that pierce my ordinariness, that startle me and remind me of the divine presence, the light, that fills and surrounds us everywhere and always.
And the weight, what about that? Beyond my smaller sphere filled with comfort, enjoyment, and the pleasure of those who love me and who I love is the rest of the world, with its weight. That includes the weight of Covid and the weight of war. Although I have not been infected with Covid, many I know have been, with varying degrees of discomfort and inconvenience. The question of when and where to mask has not yet been completely settled, leaving me uncertain what degree of risk I incur whenever I leave my house.
And war, the painful distress of those in Ukraine and those who have abandoned their country with fear for their lives. This and Covid weigh heavily on me, pushing on the smaller sphere of my life. I imagine this smaller sphere contorted by the weight of these concerns, so much bigger than whether I can get good ice cream. I feel that weight as a burden and know that others feel it, too. However, the simple presence of a cardinal enlightens for a moment, invites me, lifts the burden. Let us each — consciously and fully — accept every invitation from divine presence and lighten the weight.
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