The cast iron pan takes the butter and I lift the pan handle to swirl the melting yellow; frothy and waiting. I am making pancakes. A frost has come in the night and the furnace rumbles underneath the floorboards and I want pancakes with blueberries. First light is barely scraping over the trees in the front yard. It is a sign of what is to come; that darkness will arrive early and leave late. Autumn, despite her radiance, sounds a trumpet heralding the coming winter in her falling leaves, dead underbrush and diminishing light. It is in the diminishing that I am beginning to feel small, too.
I pour creamy batter into the butter pooled pan. The medallions crisp up around the edges. I spoon wild blueberries on top of each pancake because I am teaching today and I don’t want the tips of my fingers stained blue,even though the kids would probably get a kick out of it. They love asking about every scrape or wart or wrinkle they see on me, yet it’s funny they don’t think me old. And I’m not, really; but there are signs pointing in that direction. I flip the pancakes and push brew on the coffee pot. I squint at the back window trying to see the thermometer. I may need more than a sweater today.
There is only black.
I grab a white plate from the cupboard and flip the pancakes onto it. A lost blueberry sizzles in the pan. I stab it with my fork as nothing will be wasted this morning. The pancakes need more butter, of course, and as it slides off the top pancake, I pour the syrup. I’d finished up the real deal earlier, so I am left with the store bought stuff. I try to console myself that it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. No matter. It’s not and never will be the same.
I place the plate, steaming, on the counter. The coffee is done. I pour cream and watch the swirl of white and black mix into each other to make a new color. I see that the kitchen is brighter. My husband bought me new light bulbs. They are the kind that illuminate a room as close to natural sunlight as can be contained in a tube of twisted glass and wattage. I didn’t ask him to buy them, he just presented them to me the other day. I wasn’t thinking the bulbs we had needed changing out, but then he said the new ones might help. Help with what, I wondered. When he twisted out the old for the new it was then I remembered. Like a deer that thirsts for water, I thirst for light.
In the summer it is so easy. I wake at dawn. I am unable to stay in bed in anticipation of all that might transpire, the encounters I will have, the joy of working at something percolating, spilling. I always stand at my kitchen window with a steaming mug, absorbing the sky, the trees, the birds. But now that darkness enshrouds the morning, I linger on the pillow. I wait until I absolutely must get up. I stand at the kitchen window and there is nothing to absorb. I cannot see a thing past my reflection enveloped in a coffee steam cloud staring back at me against the black.
I feel thirsty.
It is not that I am immobilized by the lack of light, but I do feel a weight. I know that many suffer long and hard this time of year. I don’t pretend to know the depths of that sort of suffering. I am acquainted, however, with a melancholy that wears like a too-heavy coat on a too-warm day. It is in October when I begin to spend the better part of the next three months fighting to keep the coat from suffocating me.
The truth is, I am a follower of Jesus and I am a stumbler. I stumble to find beauty in ashes. I stumble to find peace in the storm. I stumble to maintain joy even though I am following hard after the most Joyful, Peaceful, Beauty-Finder there is. I am like Peter, the great Stumbler, who realized that the only way to move forward was to keep his eyes on Jesus the whole time.
Fixed, is the word.
Not. Coming. Off.
How to stay fixed looks like me grabbing His Word, His light-unto-my-path- promises over and over and over again. It looks like me shedding my wants to bless another’s needs. It looks like me not giving in to the stumbles of fear blaring ebola, devastating weather patterns, or invading terrorists. It’s me accepting sunshine light bulbs from a husband who remembers what I want to forget.
This is where I find Jesus, the Redeemer of all Stumblers, who restores my soul, lifts me from all my stumblings and reaches past all my gropings in the waning places.