disorienting days of darkness

We had the great fun and adventure of making a road trip from middle Georgia to Alabama today to be with folks we love, friends and family, to celebrate new life and a birthday.  Cooter was very excited because he has never been out of state.  At least that I can recall.  I haven’t slept nearly enough in his almost seven years to be able to keep up with it all, but yes, pretty sure–he’s never been out of Georgia.

Road trip adventure.  Cooter's first time out of state.
Road trip adventure. Cooter’s first time out of state.

He found a friend at the party right off the bat.  He and Ryan ran around and played with all the girls that were there.  But mostly they played just the two of them.  As they took time out from playing to sit at the little table and visit and have a bite to eat, I heard Cooter talking with Ryan.  “We’re in Alabama right now, but we live in America.”

Oh good gravy.

(Note to self: Add US geography to the curriculum.  ASAP!)

As I thought about what he shared with his new friend, it occurred to me how disorienting a change of position, of place can be.  Even if it’s just for a day.  Life is always throwing us curveballs that require us to change.  Doctor retires, we have to find a new one.  Grocery store totally reorganizes, and it takes us a lot longer to get everything on the list.  A family member moves and we no longer have them to lean on in the same way.  The change can be disorienting, and much like Cooter, we’re not even sure where we are anymore.  Or where we came from.

On the way home this afternoon, I was all discombulated.  Alabama is on Central time, so they are an hour behind us.  This served us well on the way over, but on the way home I had to keep thinking it’s an hour later than my phone says it is.  My phone automatically knew which time zone it was in, but the car clock stayed on Eastern time.  And I’m not even sure what time the GPS was on.  It wasn’t much help anyway because this morning it led us to a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere and clapped and waved the checkered flag and said, “Congratulations, you made it!”  Do what?!

When we left our people in Alabama, it was still sunny and bright.  Within an hour the sun began its rather rapid descent.  It was as though gravity started pulling it a little faster down towards the horizon, leaving behind its memories of the day in pink and orange and purple hues.  I looked at the time on my phone, and it occurred to me that in Alabama, at least in the eastern part of the state, the sun sets around five at this time of year.

Oh my, that’s early.

The darkness of winter, on an old state highway.....looking for the hope in midnight and the turning to face a new day.
The darkness of winter, on an old state highway…..looking for the hope in midnight and the turning to face a new day.

The sky was almost completely dark by the time we crossed over the Georgia line.  There is no dark quite like the dark of being the only car in sight on a back road or state highway.  Pitch black except for the lights beaming from the front of my vehicle.  Our Princess had been very quiet in the very back, as “Leave it to Beaver” had us laughing across the state line.  She piped up right after it got dark.

“What time is it?”  She paused only a moment before asking, “Is it midnight?”

This reminded me of Cooter’s thinking it was much later than it was a couple of weeks ago, when I picked him up from Mess Cat’s because he wasn’t up for a sleepover.  The time change and the early darkness and the especially dark darkness that seems reserved for this time of year–it can also be disorienting.  Have us feeling lost and uncertain and have our senses all confused.  We were quite nearly home, and a sleepy voice came from the back, once again asking, “Is it midnight now?”

When we are disoriented, all we can do is go with what we feel.  When we feel tired and very small and overwhelmed by all the darkness that seems to go on forever, feeling like it is the end of the day is really quite logical, I think.

My friend Dena, who writes at Centering Down, talks a lot about darkness and fear holding hands.  She writes, “Yes, our times can be dark in many ways.  The close of fall and beginning of winter reflect difficulties that so many of us face in our lives.”**  She also writes about fear of darkness and how it can come from us not being able to see in the dark and how the dark can make us feel so vulnerable.  Oh yes, my dear friend, it certainly can.  I’ve heard it in the wee, small voices of each of my littles.  Bless them, the dark makes them FEEL wee and small.  Vulnerability is not anywhere anyone of us wants to live.  So we seek answers and we ask what time it is, for in the turning of this day’s page to the next one, there is hope.  And hope–some days that’s all that gets me up in the morning.

Tonight I am thankful for the joy of watching all of my children having fun and enjoying themselves.  I give thanks for hospitality so sweet–I asked what I could do and I was told, “Make yourself at home”–it nearly moved me to tears.  And made me want to find an extra bed and take a nap in that comfortable and comforting home.  All of the stories shared and laughter that came from the sharing warmed my heart and tanned my soul.  For a safe journey and a road trip on which the loudest sounds that were heard were not voices rising in anger or disappointment but the laughter of my Fella as he listened to the “Leave it to Beaver” episodes being watched from the back seats.  For deer that turned around and ran back into the woods and not in front of my vehicle, I am very grateful.  For Mess Cat and crew coming to play with Miss Sophie in our absence so we could relax and enjoy our day, I send out a huge “thank you ma’am.”  Most of all I’m so glad for a day filled with love and grace and community.  There is nothing like being with folks who love to hear children in church and who love to let children be children.  In the disorienting days of darkness, it is healing and helps get me back rightside up to surround myself with good folks and good times.

**My friend Dena Douglas Hobbs has written an Advent devotional, called “Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey Through Hope.”  You can find a link to it here on Amazon.  It is a gift for all during this special time of the year, Advent.  It is especially moving for those who know the darkness of which she writes. And she knows of the hope that can be found as well.  I have found comfort in her words.  Tonight I am thankful for her and her gift of writing which she shares with all of us.  ❤

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