Winter storms are swelling the streams on our hill, and the winter holidays are approaching. It is can be hard to engage with holiday cheer after the death of a loved one, and yet the seasonal rituals are comforting too. To any of you who are also dealing with loss right now -- grieving a relative or friend or animal companion -- I send sympathy and solidarity. A member of my American family died six weeks ago (Sally, who was technically my aunt, but we were just two years apart in age and grew up together in my grandmother's house as sisters); and although the worst of the shock has passed, waves of sorrow still hit with the slightest memory trigger. During such times I am finding sustenance in two favourite books by two remarkable women: Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore and The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich. This passage is from Moore's Wild Comfort:
"'There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature,' Rachel Carson wrote. 'The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.'
"I have never felt this so strongly as I do now, waiting for the sun to warm my back. The bottom may drop out of my life, what I trusted may fall away completely, leaving me astonished and shaken. But still, sticky leaves emerge from bud scales that curl off the tree as the sun crosses the sky. Darkness pools and drains away, and the curve of the new moon points to the place where the sun will rise again. There is wild comfort in the cycles and the intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world.
"I settle back on the rock and drag my sleeping bag over my knees. Diffuse light silvers the water; I can just make out a dragonfly nymph that crawls toward the surface with no expectation of flight beyond maybe a tightness in the carapace across its back. No matter how hard it tries or doesn't, there will come a time when the dragonfly pumps the crinkles out of its wings, and there they will be, luminous as mica, threaded with lapis and gold.
"No measure of human grief can stop Earth in its tracks. Earth rolls into sunlight and rolls away again, continents glowing green and gold under the clouds. Trust this, and there will come a time when dogged, desperate trust in the world will break open into wonder. Wonder leads to gratitude. Gratitude into peace."
Where, or how, do you find wild comfort?
The passage quoted above is from Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature, essays by Kathleen Dean Moore (Trumpeter Books, 2010); all rights reserved by the author.