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Wanting to Cross to Safety

May 11, 2018

 

 

It’s hard to say if recent personal events have freakishly affected my Netflix habits, but certainly I feel the weight of these times mightily. And it is even more than the death of my ex-husband; there were also the deaths of two dear friends, a link to long-ago and dearer to me than they probably ever, ever knew.

 

Now--it may be ricocheting from the sublime to the ridiculous to bring in Netflix, but it was through a shared Netflix account that I was able to see what my ex-husband last watched before his death (we seek signs and clues for meaning everywhere in extremis) and I suppose all this existential upheaval and supranatural narration has affected my viewing choices more than usual these days.

 

When it comes to that past-time, I am always primed for a police procedural, partial to a poltergeist: let the paranormal begin! I was entranced by the “documentary” on the haunted burial ground that is Cheesman Park in Denver, the park I ran in regularly when I lived there. I had nary a ghost siting, running at day’s end. But perhaps my vision was blinkered by dusk.

 

Several months ago I had thought, living newly-solo-with-dog in a new-but-old house, that I would regularly get the heebie-jeebies climbing the stairs to bed or feel cold spots that weren’t related to the furnace malfunction. But oddly, no. All who may dwell here keep a calming, fulsome silence.

 

These days it’s the living that scare me. Their temporality worries me. I want to protect them and I know I can’t. And I think that’s where Netflix comes in. After watching “Broadchurch” (Kleenex at the ready) and “Shetland,” and “Trapped,” to say nothing of “The Babadook,” “The Awakening” and all of “Bones,” I am feeling mighty protective of my own live and mutable loved ones, near and far.

 

But what led me to the French mystery series, “The Chalet” was, I thought at first, simply lust. Lust for France—yep, I got that in spades—and lust for the coterie of attractive French thirty-somethings who gather for a wedding in a nigh-deserted village in the Alps. Sounds heavenly, yes? Well, think “Nearer My God to Thee” heavenly.

           

Because all the while I’m drinking in the language and the scenery, I’m also fingering imaginary rosary beads about what will happen next to whom and when in this series. In this series, no one is safe. That’s what’s supposed to be entertaining, right?

 

Only in my existentially-addled state (which may also be a much more insightful state than the auto-pilots we often cruise on), I actually keep thinking: no one is safe. And I don’t mean just the handsome folks having sex and shooting each other in “The Chalet.”

 

No one is safe.

 

And that fear raises a corollary question, one first voiced by the prophet Ezekiel in the Hebrew scriptures: how then can we live?

 

The prophet does what prophets do: call the people to right living and away from wickedness. And while I’m one to totally endorse the turning away from wickedness—as urgent a call then as now--I feel a need to domesticate the question: how then shall we live when those we love are small and needy and lost? And we are all small and needy and lost.

 

When I used to sing to my young daughters at night-time, I would always skip the verse of the hymn that said, “Teach me to live that I may dread/the grave as little as my bed.” As an insomniac child, I knew such lines would have been more terror than comfort to me. I hated bed.

 

Yet we do live in the interim between birth and grave-as-bed. And in our living, we are tasked to care and equipped to give. Even as I worry the beads on that slippery and invisible rosary, I know the poet W.H. Auden spoke true: “The choice to love is open till we die.”

 

I choose it again. And again.

                                                                                                                                      

           

           

 

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.