For nothing is fixed,
forever, forever, forever,
it is not fixed;
the earth is always shifting,
the light is always changing,
the sea does not cease to grind down rock.
—James Baldwin, "For Nothing Is Fixed"
When I can’t sleep—a frequent occurrence these days—I tiptoe past my sleeping spouse and toddler and sneak onto the porch to stare at the sky. In the COVID-19 era of full time work layered upon full time parenting, silence and solitude are precious beyond words. But an even greater allure is the ever-changing night.
My home and the congregation I serve are nestled in the boreal forests of Alaska, a few hours south of the Arctic Circle. At 64° latitude our winters are interminably dark, the summers a 24-hour festival of light. I miss the stars during the bright summer nights, but it’s always a joy to welcome them back. Kicked back in a deck chair at 2 AM, I feel like a one-woman celestial welcoming committee hunting for pinpricks of light in the glowing indigo sky.
I found the fluctuating daylight unsettling when I first moved here, but now I recognize it for a valuable teacher. The river that used to freeze into an ice road snaking through the center of town hasn’t frozen solid enough to drive on safely in years. What once seemed certain is now unpredictable, even dangerous.
Our little one is growing up in wild bursts of giggles and tantrums. Right now we’re working on empathy and the meaning of “no”: no yelling during mommy’s Zoom call, no climbing on the dog, no Preschool even though you had a new backpack and were so excited to go. Too young to fully comprehend the enormity of the pandemic, she has intuited that the world is not well. Anticipated milestones—increased independence, new experiences and friends—are fading out of view. The ground beneath us hasn’t felt solid in months.
Things we had finally begun to take for granted now feel like hard-won victories, like when we can manage to go a full afternoon without a meltdown (hers, or mine). I miss the calm and patience that once came naturally to me—and I know that I am doing the best that I can. We are both doing the best that we can.
Change is my co-pilot, like it or not. And even though I have not seen them in months, the stars remain fixed in the sky.
Spirit of Life Who Changes with Us, the ground beneath us is shifting—for some of us gently, for others in seismic waves. Remind us of the steadfast presence of a love greater than ourselves, as constant as the stars, even when it is obscured from view.