The Evening Bringer
From the time the sun set on June 15th at JFK airport, I did not see full darkness again until the sun set on June 20th. In the five days in between, I was traveling through Iceland where, due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, most of Iceland only experiences what is called “civil twilight,” where it never gets fully dark in the summer. It was wildly cool and strangely disorienting. The picture above is from 12:30 am after a late-late dinner.
You forget how much you use the passage of time as an anchoring mechanism. I often felt tired right when I woke up but then wouldn’t feel it again until the next morning. As I experienced this lack of darkness on the trip, I was struck by how special it is to witness the daily transition between day and night in our lives.
I am a person who preaches and teaches often about trying to recognize the miracles in our lives. If I am being totally honest though, I don’t do a particular great job of living with that awareness. I have moments here and there where I can appreciate something my body does, or I can watch a video of some impressive act that testifies to the wonder of nature. For the most part though, I fall short in living with this recognition. I think we all do. It’s sort of the human condition to get lost in the humdrum nature of life.
Judaism though (and I imagine other religions/practices as well) believes strongly in the cultivation of this sense of awe and miraculousness. While in Iceland, I got to thinking about a piece of the daily liturgy that we say in the evening prayers. As we praise God for God’s hand in the ordering of the world, the blessing ends with a specific praise for God who מעריב ערבים, translated literally as the one “who evenings evenings.” I have often spoken about this poetic language as a reminder of the belief that God set creation into motion and that the passage of time is a gift.
It’s challenging though! The passage of day to night in my life is often filled with cooking, writing, or getting ready for evening meetings. More often than not, it goes unnoticed. When you really think about it though, how special is that period of the day? If you lived at a time in which you weren’t fully aware of planetary movement, the fact that this happened daily would indeed seem miraculous!
As I sat there in Iceland trying to figure out what day it was and what time it was, I told myself this was a great reminder to try to create space in my life to cultivate awe of the perceived mundanities of life. You could try it at either end of the day’s transitions or pick something else. Light a candle and watch the flame flicker. There are so many daily happenings that we see but we don’t really see. Even if you’re not bought into the whole God element, the essence of heightening our awareness to the awesome nature of nature is universally beneficial. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.