It's really, Really Very Cold here in LSD (Lower, Slower Delaware). The temperature is in the lower double digits. When the wind blows - as it has been with relentless force, sending the water into odd patterns against the current - it dips down to the single digits.
BRRRRRRR . . . . . The cold stings and burns my face and hands. I shudder - literally - to think of how cold it might be if the sun were not out.
I've never experienced such cold here. Makes me think of my Grandmother's description of Hell.
And Heaven? She said that you could get a scent of Heaven by smelling the inner folds of a newborn's neck.
When she would check in on one of her newborn grandchildren as they slept and watched as they moved their mouth and fluttered their eyelids, she would say, "Ah, s/he is getting last minute instructions from the angels."
Suddenly and without warning, she took a characteristic half-jump and went under the water. Smart bird, I thought to myself. Good way to stay warm, I figured, and away from the harsh, blowing winds.
Well, I might have been half-right. She emerged a few hundred yards away with a fish in her mouth, gulping it down with absolute joyful and victorious abandon.
I surprised myself as I heard a cheer emerge from my heart and my hands came together in applause.
It was hope in the midst of the lapping, icy, hellish waters of despair that threatened to overtake her.
It was a bit of Heaven in my Grandmother's understanding of Hell.
Funny. The cormorant was just doing what she's supposed to do. Being herself. Staying focused. Clear. On task. Getting what she needs in order to survive. Getting nourishment and enjoying the victory over the forces of the world, even as they threatened to over throw her.
The German philosopher, Martin Heideggar, wrote extensively about anxiety and authenticity and 'the question of being' in his book, "Time and Being," saying that we have made so many assumptions about 'being' that we have neglected to ask essential questions about it. In the process, he asserts, we have lost our sense of authenticity.
In a rift on this philosophy, "For the Time Being," Annie Dillard says, about three-quarters into her book, "I don't know beans about God." Her writing before and after that begs to differ with that confession.
Dillard's questions and ancient, unearthed prayers condense into an image of a God with one hand tied behind his back, who "wipes and stirs our souls from time to time" with the other. God, suggests Dillard, is complete only in God's creation and through God's creatures.
This is a God who determines no catastrophic storm, no broken chromosome. "The very least likely things for which God might be responsible," writes Dillard in my favorite line of the book, "are what insurers call 'acts of God.'" Such is the creation that God has set in motion. Through our hands, lips, and outraged tears, however, God responds.
I am haunted by the words of another woman, French mystic Jeanne Guyon, who was jailed by King Louis XIV for being a 'religious thinker'. A woman and a religious thinker? Impossible! Clearly, a dangerous woman. She is quoted by author and Episcopal priest, Nancy C. James in her book, "Standing in the Whirlwind".
Rest assured, it is the same God who causes the scarcity and the abundance, the rain and the fair weather. The high and low states, the peaceful and the state of warfare, are each good in their season. These vicissitudes form and mature the interior, as the different seasons compose the year . . .
. . . .God loves you, let this thought equalize all states. Let him do with us as with the waves of the sea, and whether he takes us to his bosom, or casts us upon the wind, that is, leaves us to our won barrenness, all is well."
I'm no philosopher, but I suspect my Grandmother could have given Heideggar, Dillard and Guyon a run for their money.
Perhaps we've all forgotten the 'last minute instructions' we get from the angels after we arrive.
We complicate our lives with so many non-essentials, so many 'must-have's' that we don't really need. In the process, I think, we lose a sense of ourselves and become what we have accumulated - things and thoughts, what we want ourselves and others to think of us - and not who we authentically are, or are becoming.
I am so grateful for this time in this little piece of Heaven we call 'Llangollen', which never ceases to remind me of what's really important in this life: family, friends, relationships - even when they're hard - love, warmth, good books, the love we know of God in Christ Jesus, the power of the Spirit to inspire our intelligence and fire our imaginations and creativity.
All of these, I think, are the scents of Heaven to ward off the burning cold of Hell.
At least, I am warmed by this thought and hopeful on this second day of the second decade of the third millennium even as the wind blows cold, cruel, burning gusts around our wee cottage on the Bay.