by Chloe Koffas, Contributing Writer
Light From A Pixel
Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico, every hot and dusty month of July held the promise of the rain of a monsoon season. Thunderstorms like this not only happen on tropical islands with swaying palm trees, they pass through places where the sand does not touch the ocean. There is a beautiful dichotomy between the relentless arid earth and the grace of the pouring rain. As a full, and loud, and deeply colorful thunderstorm takes its course, there is sometimes an unexplainable moment of bright sorrow, and then you are filled with this warm glow that carries you.
Things You Did Not See
A pink and lavender dusk would hang softly over the twinkling city lights and the sky would start blending itself into the dark matter of the universe. The lightning would flash like a camera taking pictures of the cosmos, ever filling the darkness with particles and waves of light. There would be a fight, even a war, between the positive and negative electrical forces of those blackening clouds. The storm would fiercely tear through the horizon, and for a moment you would see things you did not see, that you could not see before.
A few years back, I went to Albuquerque during July for my 20th high school reunion, a common rite of passage for many people, with the hope of seeing a monsoon storm as I remember, and there was no rain, no thunder, just this beautiful stillness. That wasn’t what I thought I wanted, but maybe that was what I needed. That week was the beginning of when I was pulling the metaphorical mixtape of my life out of the cassette deck, and all the events that followed over the last three years were my opportunity to gradually turn that tape over and put it back on the second side. I am now on side two, the second part of life when you really start finding freedom, and it was suffering, and a sort of bright sorrow that helped get me here.
Things Unresolved, Things Outgrown
By now, we know ‘we can never go home’, though until recently I never fully knew why. I spent a lot of my youth trying to resolve things with phone calls or letters, and I came to realize that while many things can be resolved, there are things that seem as if they just can’t be. Carl Yung said that the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable – though they can never be solved, they can be outgrown. The journey can seem so long though sometimes, it can seem like the answer to a problem is taking ages to get to us.
Those monsoon thunderstorms are still with me. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the electricity; I can still smell the rain as it brings down the sacred atmosphere to the desert floor. I closed my eyes to remember this as I wrote this piece, and strangely, I began to hear something simultaneously familiar and yet momentarily unrecognizable coming through the night window, and for just a few minutes, even in the midst of the driest Northern California summer, soft raindrops fell in an arrhythmic, calming cadence on the canvas of my patio umbrella. Some rain clouds had stopped just above the Bay Area to give us a few moments of comforting peace.
Sometimes we pray and don’t even realize we are praying. Sometimes the prayer is answered, and it happens so immediately, or so unexpectedly, or so creatively, that we cannot even comprehend the miracle has begun. Sometimes we need a moment of lightning to see what was once laying in darkness in the desert sand.
Hold the Paradox
I think back on the lightning coming through the pastel clouds as the lavender turned into gray and as heavy gray blended into black. Every problem and paradox for me in those days existed on the desert ground below. Fr. Richard Rohr, a well-loved Franciscan priest in New Mexico, teaches that making it into the second half of your life happens as you learn to hold the paradox – the hot sand and the cold rainwater mixing together in your hands. I am no longer the child or adolescent I was in those monsoon seasons, I no longer have to carry all the heavy sorrows of the desert within me. I can finally unload those sorrows. I only need to carry those bright flashes of light that showed me the way. Those July monsoon lightning flashes are still embers within me.
The Places That Made You
This summer, as you are going on your journeys, and as you are going to stand in those places that made you who you are, like that silver lake where you used to swim, or those mountains where you used to hike, take a moment of silence as you stand there. If there is no time, then look at those familiar hills through the window of the plane as you sit on the runway, or peer out at those towering evergreens across the freeway. Look out through the hotel window at the rising moon for a moment, and know that it will be okay, it will all work out, the problem will be solved, and if not, you will outgrow it.
The comfort is that the problems you have are the problems that many people have. Truly finding your way back home is finding the center of your own existence – who you were before the world changed you. If deserts are often the remains of an ancient sea, then maybe in a thunderstorm a desert is finding its way back home as it fills with drops from every ocean that ever was.
Visit Chloe’s blog, Light From A Pixel.