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candle or no candle

I woke very early and eased my body out of bed.  The attic floorboards creaked beneath my careful feet. David slept soundly in the imperfect silence.

The darkness of morning usually comforts me, but today uncertainty lay at the surface of my heart like scum on a lake. In several hours we’d be on a plane, headed toward our beloved family in crisis. We knew little of what lay ahead, but our hearts had been aching for days.

Downstairs, I held a stuffed bunny on my lap and offered my morning practices. Even when you’re thirty-four, it turns out there’s comfort in praying in the company of plush animals.

Have I mentioned the wind and rain? By the time I made it to the kitchen the storm was moaning at the windows.

I fed Thomas and scooped his litter. I poured granola. I sipped tea. The sleek little cat snuggled between my shins on the ottoman.

Praying had settled my heart. Breakfast had settled my belly. There were dozens of tasks on my mind, but I couldn’t stop glancing at the rain-splattered windows.

I slid the blanket off my lap and stood. I pulled a winter hat over my hair and tucked my pajama pants into rain boots. I fetched my big umbrella from the hook.

Three a.m. in Rowley is darker than three a.m. most places. I lit the wick of a glass candle and walked out into the black, pausing to open the umbrella.


I spoke aloud: “In the dark and stormy night of our family, may I carry a small light.”

My feet took me past the glow from the back door, past the smooth driveway, into the wet grass. The candle did nothing to illuminate the ground beneath me, but at least the trees wouldn’t catch me by surprise.

Trepidation tingled the surface of my skin, but the fear felt wholesome and necessary. The backyard was pitch black, but the air was warmer than it had been in days. Step by step I made my way around the back of the house, receiving the intensity of the sky and the soft strength of the earth.

At the front of the house, a street lamp shed soft yellow light. It was then that a gust of wind dipped into the candle jar. I stood still and watched the flame flicker and die, the wick glowing for a moment before the final ribbon of smoke.

Give up your expectations, the smoke told me. Carry your light but don’t cling to it. Candle or no candle, you have what you need for the journey.

The wind rustled what remained of the autumn leaves. I walked forward.