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A fierce storm blew through my new village last week. They say we were on the dirty side of the storm —mighty winds that peeled huge trees as if they were overripe bananas, but barely enough rain to dampen the birdbaths. In the aftermath, the garden was a tangle of leaves and twigs and some rather large appendages of stately oaks and elms. We lost power.

 

In the aftermath, I met my neighbors — really met them, beyond the tentative introductions of a couple weeks prior. Without electricity or internet or cell service for several days, people opened up readily over backyard fences or while standing in line to buy ice. It was remarkable, really, how emotion gushed forth in a staunch New England town.

 

What I heard was that women have weathered a spring tucked into their own homes. They learned to work at home, to supervise digital schooling, to be innovative with time and space and relationships. They’ve been optimistic and taken advantage of the opportunity to bake sourdough, to sew masks, even to adopt a puppy. Each in their own homes, they were the heartbeats and they were the cheerleaders, trying valiantly to extract the good from a bad situation. They soldiered on through a summer that was not, in fact, the opening up after a few weeks of quarantine, but a new lifestyle of standing apart and shielding from one another. And on this day, after a storm that made the world messier without even the blessing of rain to wash and nourish, they were spent.

 

More than one woman expressed the real concern that this would be the tipping point. Exhausted by the effort of figuring out the simplest things all over again — how to work without WiFi, how to communicate without a cell phone, how to offer a popsicle as comfort to a hot, tired child when it’s all in a puddle in the freezer — the words they each whispered were “break me.”

 

This might be the thing that finally breaks me after all these months …

 

After three days without electricity, the back-to-school plans were announced by each little town. It took a long time for the word to circulate because power had not yet been restored in many pockets and electronic messages went unopened. Eventually, though, the mothers knew. This fall would present challenges of its own. And there, in the hot sun, standing in that one place in the yard where they could get just enough cell service, they considered what lay ahead.

 

Back-to-school was stripped of all its traditional crisp optimism. And even for the most resilient among us, something snapped and broke as if it were a branch twisted free of its trunk in a hurricane. Like the spring and like the summer, the fall would be full of uncertainty.

 

We are assured that we don’t know what we don’t know. What new challenge is just around the corner? What new storm is poised in the distance, gathering a rage before it rolls in? All we know is that it will be something.

 

My husband was away when the storm came, but in the quiet aftermath, my son showed up. He brought various garden tools, rounded up the troops in my house and set us in motion to restore order. And then he set his jaw and he plowed through — cutting, hauling, raking, subduing the chaos. Hours later, the garden, with its many trees and challenging foliage, looked lovelier than before the storm. Have I mentioned that acts of service are my love language? Have I mentioned that in all the vast unknowns, all that we can know reliably is love?

 

We are broken people in a broken world. Resilience is faltering. Resolve is failing. We cannot press through on our own power anymore. It is critical that we double down on love. Love is at work in the world. Though it’s easy to doubt, mercy lives even in the wreckage of the storms. Love courses through civilization unfettered by power lines and underground cables. It is not bound inside our homes, cannot be hidden behind a mask. We are not alone. Love is real and present and alive and well. It’s wanting to speak tenderly to you and to me, even in the unrelenting weariness.

 

You are broken? Me, too. Love mends the broken and gentles the brittle, consoles the grieving and heals the sick. Even in the darkness, Love has power. In Love we live and move and have our being. The sure hope we know in these uncertain days is that Love waits for us, wants us to turn our faces toward him. He shines light and warmth into our souls. And then, we turn to one another and offer that same abundant power.

 

It’s our only hope.

 

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

@elizabethfoss