By Kenton W. Smith
In the dark blue deep of a restless night
nine hundred thousand dead.
COVID misery torments my faith.
Then a serenade of great horned owls.
The soothing sound of beauty
wooes me to sleep.
When it is darkest
Beauty sings a lullaby.
Is this a contradiction
or a holy chorus announcing,
“Peace on earth, do not be afraid.”
Dark blue deep is a reference to the longest night of the year (December 21 in the northern hemisphere). The Season of Advent lights a candle in the presence of the deep dark announcing something longed for is about to be born.
In the Gospel of Luke (2:8-14) a choirof angels sing to shepherds in the middle of the night announcing the birth of the Christ Child. The image of night in scripture often refers to divine help coming to humans in trouble. The trouble in this case is the oppression of the Roman Empire and the collaboration of the Jewish King Herod.
But then is now.
The ritual practice of the longest night during Christmas for those who have lost loved ones or dwell in fear is not a single day for much of the world but every day. The New Year is no exception. Violence, hatred, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, dualisms/divisions (us versus them), homophobia, misogyny, abuse, the weaponization of politics and religion, poverty, deadly viruses and an endless cycle of all the things that are killing us infects our psyches and fevers our sleep. In The Divine Milieu Pierre Teilhard de Chardin describes the cosmos as the location (more poetically: the womb) in which the Mystery we call God is actively present, living, moving, being.
Inexplicably and unbidden into the darkness of my tormented sleep Beauty sings an owl’s lullaby and calms my fear. What is that? What is that soft prompting that taps my imagination and brings my fear to an end without effort? Without effort is important to notice. I wasn’t practicing or praying. The magnitude of real suffering compared to my sleep disturbance was inconsequential. I was wooed by a life not me yet not other than me.
There is nothing to do here, nothing to measure, the Life within all life comes by itself.
*By February 21, 2022 over 900,000 deaths from Covid 19 were recorded by the CDC Data Tracker.
**The poem is from Sitting Still Doing Nothing: Contemplative Poetics in a Cultivated Garden and Wild Landscape by Kenton W. Smith, D.Min., DASD, Entry 12.15.20, p. 100.