In mid- January this year a hail storm knocked out my bathroom skylight, peppered our flat roof with tiny dints and left cracks and holes in the laser light that runs the length of the back veranda. The storm over, we secured a tarp over the hole in the bathroom ceiling, cleared the veranda, and notified our insurers.
That same day a man from Wuhan in China flew into Melbourne. Six days later Victoria Heath confirmed him as Australia’s first case of coronavirus. Two happenings, unconnected, but that have run on parallel lines in my life ever since.
The tarp blocked out the main source of light in the bathroom but I told myself that a darkish bathroom isn’t particularly important. Summer ran its course and autumn morphed into winter and it had become a habit to switch on the bathroom light as I walked in. But I missed the sun light, in daylight, the life it brought.
Meanwhile all around the world more important things were happening. What first seemed to be a flu-like epidemic rapidly became a pandemic. You know the rest of this ongoing story -borders shut, shops, workplaces, schools and churches closed, along with gyms, theatres, restaurants and cafés. Employment changed and plummeted. We were urged, advised, and eventually legally required to isolate in our homes. We did as we were told, but as the weeks, then months, have stretched out, our resilience and acceptance of endless restrictions has become harder to live with and a darkness of spirit has resulted.
In her poem Abundance Marlene Marburg wrote:
This dark time flirts with me in subtle, joyous ways.
Silence, space and solitude are the lenses through which I see
the kaleidoscopic invitation to be and to become.
The mystic John of the Cross wrote poetically and at length about the way dark time experiences can befuddle thinking and the way we assume life is going to be. He was familiar with anxiety, depression, loneliness, frustration, boredom and even heartache, comparing them to the darkness of a Spanish night. If he was around today he’d probably tell us we’re living in a communal dark night of the soul – one that sometimes feels as though it will never end.
In the spirit of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christianity teaches that painful experiences have the potential to push us out of whatever comfy spot we had settled for and edge us beyond into a life that is less selfish and more life-giving. Darkness always gives way to light.
This week, nine months on, my bathroom tarp was replaced with a large, rectangular, glass skylight and instantly the room was flooded with spring sunshine. I looked up and saw the sky and the gently moving eucalypt leaves of the world outside my lockdown. I noticed what had been there all the time, not just the ceiling cobwebs and my aging skin, but a light that has begun edging its way into me, looking out to a future that will be very different from how I imagined it in January. The Light is in my Now, and it says, “I am with you all days”.