The flare of roman candles exploding

Thanksgiving. My heart is full, the kind of fullness that verges on discomfort. I reread my 2007 and 2008 posts about what I was thankful for, and it all still feels right today. Also in my mind right now, adding to the fullness of my heart, is the memory of seven years ago, of my father-in-law’s heart transplant. I am reminded, again, of all the days and hours that I am not grateful enough, for this good fortune and for a host of others.

I read Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith on the plane ride down to Florida. (Aside: one thing I am very grateful for is having a seven-year-old who can be utterly entranced with a combination of Jet Blue cartoons and Magic Treehouse books for a 3 hour flight, allowing me to read undisturbed). I think I underlined something on every single page – there’s no question that Anne Lamott is my favorite writer. But one passage really stuck with me, and that seemed to speak to me where I am right now, in this season full of both thanksgiving and lengthening shadows.

Maybe this is what grace is, the unseen sounds that make you look up. I think it’s why we are here, to see as many chips of blue sky as we can bear. To find the diamond hearts within one another’s meatballs. To notice flickers of the divine, like dust motes on sunbeams in your dusty kitchen. Without all the shade and shadows, you’d miss the beauty of the veil. The shadow is always there, and if you don’t remember it, when it falls on you and your life again, you’re plunged into darkness. Shadows make the light show.

Oh, yes. There is so much I love about this passage, too much to describe in this post. That would mean spilling the contents of my heart onto the page, and unfortunately they are too messy and incoherent for public consumption (except for a lucky few of you! :)). I love the image of “as many chips of blue sky as we can bear,” because it hints at something Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary helped me see clearly. It’s okay to admit there there is only so much brilliance we can take. This is an adjunct admission to that of owning that we are not capable of living fully engaged in the moment, heart open and receiving, all the time.

I am thankful today for the acknowledgment, by others and myself, that it’s okay to live this way. I am thankful for Anne’s gracious, lyrical reminder of the fact that shadows make the light show. There is self-acceptance, for me, in saying this out loud. It is simply the way I am, inclined towards melancholy, but that does not have to mean I have a sad life. Absolutely not. And I am thankful to Gwen Bell, whose words helped me see that just last week.

Isn’t it, after all, the interplay of light and shadow that provides the texture of our lives? The darkness creates contrast, but it also scoops out some emotional part of me, allowing me to bear – experience, recognize, feel – more joy. I am grateful, I realize anew, for way my lens on the world is striated with both light and dark.

I am thankful today for evening light on bare trees, for the deep, glowing blue of the afternoon sky, for the words of a friend that make me feel less alone, for the tousled hair of sleepy children, for the lyrics of a song that bring tears to my eyes, for the moments when I am really and truly present, when I feel my spirit beating like wings in my chest.

So, this is happysad day for me, in a reflective season. My heart swells with awareness of my tremendous blessings, of the extravagant beauty that is my world. My thoughts are quiet and shadowy, but lit by incandescent beams of light. Like a night sky whose darkness is obliterated over and over by the flare of roman candles exploding, their colors made more beautiful by the surprise of them against the darkness. Like my life.

Today is a day full of that uncomfortable heart I mention, so I repost this from last year instead of diving into the wreck (which some days – today – I cannot bear)… happy Thanksgiving to all.

12 thoughts on “The flare of roman candles exploding”

  1. Anne Lamott is extraordinary, isn’t she? I love her work. Bird by Bird sits at my desk and gives me comfort in my writing life and my regular life.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. My father had emergency heart surgery this month so I am especially aware of the heaviness of being thankful this year.

  3. Oh, I love that passage from Anne Lamott. Thanks for sharing it.

    As I celebrate the first thanksgiving in the USA (while on my travels), there is so much I have to be thankful for in my life.

    And I think you are also right, without the darkness, the light wouldn’t shine so brightly (or perhaps we would notice it less)

    Happy thanksgiving to you

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