My mother and sister were up from sunnier climes recently, for a visit to our stripped down, frozen tundra. This winter, which has produced agonizingly long months of bitter, gray days with only the briefest glimpses of sunshine, joie de vivre in frigid lockdown, was cheered for me, temporarily, by the warmth of their brief stay. My mother had in tow a book she was just finishing, passed on to her by her sister who lives in Maryland, a state which has seen more than its fair share of snow dumps and harsh weather this winter. The book's entitled Cold Tangerines, written by Shauna Niequist, and if the endurance of this season has pressed long and hard against your bones perhaps it's also chipped away a space for a bit of contemplation. I offer you as solace and inspiration these excerpts from the chapter, "Shalom:"
"I have glimpses every once in a while of this achingly beautiful way of living that comes when the plates stop spinning and the masks fall off and the apologies come from the deepest places and so do the prayers, and I am fighting, elbowing to make more of my life that life. I want that spirit or force of happiness that is so much deeper than happy--peace that comes from your toes, that makes you want to live forever, that makes you gulp back sobs because you remember so many moments of so much un-peace....The word I use for it is shalom. It is the physical, sense-oriented, relational, communal, personal, ideological posture that arches God-ward....
To get there, I'm finding, is the hardest work and the most worthwhile fight. Shalom requires so much, so much more than I thought I would have to sacrifice, and it scrapes so deeply through the lowest parts of me, divulging and demonstrating so many dark corners. It's something you can't fake, so you have to lay yourself open to it, wide open and vulnerable to what it might ask of you, what it might require you give up, get over, get outside of, get free from....Shalom is about God, and about the voice and spirit of God blowing through and permeating all the dark corners that we've chopped off, locked down. It's about believing, and letting belief move you to forgive. It's about grace, and letting grace propel you into action....It's about living in a world of movie theaters and shoes and highways and websites, and finding those things to be shot through with the same spirit and divinity and possibility that we see in ourselves. It's living with purpose and sacrifice and intention, willing to be held to the highest, narrowest possible standard of goodness, and in the same breath, finding goodness where other people see nothing but dirt."
Or slush. Or endless days of winter.