Holy Moly. It Must Be Winter.

My friend Teresa calls Haines "spiritual boot camp," because it can be so challenging to love our neighbors as ourselves, especially after meetings like the one last night, where many angry people, who had been misinformed and riled up all day, apparently -- sandbagged the Parks & Rec committee at the library. (Which is ironic, as fighting at public meetings is our most traditional form of winter recreation. It keeps us warm and elevates heart rates.) They were acting on a rumor that the committee was banning snow machines and ATVs from 25 mile and up the Kicking Horse valley. The committee had actually planned on discussing the merits of creating a map for planning winter recreation growth. Still, everyone had a say on the snowmachine-ATV-ban-that-wasn’t, and felt better, I hope. A lot stayed to weigh in against everything else on the agenda, from parks and bicycle paths, to lighting the sledding hill for the kids.

It had been a long few days already. I had a column due Monday, and an obituary Tuesday for a kind newcomer- Bob Duis retired here from Wisconsin in 2006- whose heart suddenly stopped at 70. He volunteered for many good things in Haines—recycling, the bike race, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, hospice, a Borough commission.

I also learned a friend’s brain tumor is not benign, that another friend—a young father of three—has stopped his cancer treatments because they are not working and is praying for a miracle, and a friend’s house burned to the ground. (They are okay.) 

 God must have a sense of humor, because I have been writing my talks for The Gathering, an Episcopal women’s spiritual retreat in North Carolina Feb. 24-25. I am the keynote speaker. The theme is “Holy Moments.” Both “those times when the Holy stops us in our tracks. Joy. Loss. Unexpected change,” and the times we seek the Holy in, “prayer, growth, and renewal.” 

Where is the Holy in any of this woe? Well, I stopped in my tracks with unexpected joy when the new educational programs coordinator at the library whistled real loud to call order to the snowmachining, ATV-ing, not-too-fond-of-newcomers or skier-types crowd, asked for help moving tables to make room for more chairs, and then introduced himself with, “my name is Zephyr.” 

And the way the Borough’s young planner opened the meeting earnestly speaking about the maps she makes, and why they are important, and how everyone who wanted to be mad at her, couldn’t really be, because she is so sweet, and so waited patiently for her to finish, which all created enough breathing room that it may have prevented a riot. That was a Holy moment, too. 

And this morning, there was the other kind of Holy pause. I sought and found it in the cold wind, the sparkling ice-chip tideline, happy dogs, my friend’s eyes below her hat and above her scarf, and in how knowing what we both do about how fragile and fleeting these fine days of ours on this wonderful slice of earth are, makes us appreciate them more, and how, when I started to rave about the meeting, she looked at me, and I her, and we both said, “It’s not a brain tumor.”  Amen.

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