Monday, January 2, 2012
FOG ON THE BRIDGE
On New Year's Eve, I drove across the longest bridge in the country to visit my parents. I did not want a New Year's Eve filled with booze and cigarette smoke and bleary-eyed dejection, crowds of unknown people pulsing with longing and anxiety for things they cannot even name, strange bodies seeking each other at midnight in desperation. I've lived that New Year's, and it's not for me. I wanted to welcome in the new year surrounded by the two people most important to me, my puppy in my lap, a cozy fire, hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls, and an old black and white 1940's film. But first there was the fog to get through.
This time of year we always battle fog. Not snow or sleet---fog. Fog that creeps in from both lake and river and blankets the city from all sides. Like a cat in a bag struggling to get out, to find its way. There were restrictions on the causeway. Only 35 miles per hour, and only one lane open. My mother urged me to wait to leave. But I wanted to get home, to begin what I had set out to do.
Only the night before, while reading Margaret Silf, I encountered the notion of different spaces being sacred---gardens, temples, sanctuaries, islands, and. . .causeways. Yes, a causeway. A bridge that transports you from one place to another. That spans great distance. Creates a link, a connection. A physical manifestation of prayer, which spans the distance between us and God, connecting us to Him.
In the fog, I struggle with things that have plagued me all year. Patience. I want to set the pace. I want to go as fast as I choose. And yet even if I disregarded the speed limit, such a desire would be impossible to meet. We were in one long, solitary row of cars; the car in front of you, and the car in front of that, and yes, the driver in front of him---all of them contributed to how fast we would go. All of them contributed to the decision, had a stake. How frustrated I become in life when I can't call the shots. When I have to admit that things are out of my control. Control. Yes, another issue.
In the fog, I lack control. I can't see in front of me more than a few feet. Just the lights on the tail end of the car in front of me. I have to slow down. I have to concentrate. And I have to admit that I don't know what's ahead. And that's okay. But it's never okay for me. I always want to know---not just what's a minute ahead, but an hour, a week, ten years. Instead of just being present where I am, I must know exactly what's going to happen, how it will occur, and put forth effort to manipulate it or control it. I can't do that in a fog. I just can't. Really, most days, my whole life is a fog. Any sense of control or foresight is just pretense, a false means of comfort.
Where is real comfort? In God, of course. I know He will see me across that great bridge. I know He sees even when I cannot. Release. Trust. Be still. All things that were struggles in 2011. All things I must embrace in 2012.
Here I am on this journey that some might consider dangerous. I could have stayed at home. But God wants us on the journey. He wants us out in His world, no matter how foggy. Among so many names for Christ, He is known as the Light of the World. The sun peeks out from the clouds, slowly at first, then with more vigor. Its rays begin to burn off the fog. Jesus the light of the world, a beacon in the fog.
As I approach the shore, only a bit of fog remains, floating beside me almost like a cloud. And out of that gray haze come two pelicans, their broad wings spread, their beaks lifted high. For a moment, they coast beside me, as if they are following me, before dropping down into the depths of the lake.
Pelicans. Our state bird. In medieval times, they believed that pelicans would wound themselves and feed their young with their own blood in times of starvation. Like Christ and the Eucharist. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas actually described Jesus as "the loving divine pelican."
There He was beside me, even in a fog so deep it was seemingly impenetrable. Dear God, thank you for being with me even in the midst of my greatest confusion, even when I feel most alone. Thank you for helping me to recognize Your presence in that moment. Help me to remember this moment always. And open my eyes to those countless moments every day when You are with me, and I don't even know it. You are always with me. Open my eyes, Lord. Open my eyes.
NOTE: All photos are from nola.com. I would never take pictures while driving, especially in a fog!