Today, on my early morning walk, I noticed an eerie silence. Our mayor had died, and it seemed as though a pall of grieving was blanketing the city of St. Francis. Although I did not always agree with the choices he made for our city, I appreciated Mayor Ed Lee who seemed to be guided by a deep wisdom and compassion for every San Franciscan. He was a committed servant of the people, an advocate for civil rights and a champion for the poor, the working folks and the future of our city.
We are in the Season of Darkness, the time of “Advent,” which signals waiting, watching and anticipating with hope that something to come will change our lives and regenerate our world. Much of our northern hemisphere is guided by the natural seasonal switch to a grayer and colder time. It is the onset of winter, but here in central California the otherwise wet season continues to be dry and sunny with mildly warm temperatures. Our skies are glowing orange because smoke particles from the wildfires of southern California are reflecting the setting sun. The intensity of the wildfires is exacerbated by the warming climate, and, in turn, the smoke and heat that is produced accelerates climate change. We need a societal change of heart and the hope that would bring.
Yet, in the midst of our spiritual and seasonal darkness and perhaps as a prayer for the world’s future, we turn on decorative lights and listen to seasonal music. But we aren’t the only ones singing. The creatures around us have their own choirs. A little walk along our coastal areas provides a cacophony of sacred sounds.
Perhaps the most boisterous are the California Sea Lions which are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking. They are very social animals, and groups often rest closely packed together at favored haul-out sites on land or float together on the ocean’s surface in living “rafts.” Sometimes they can be seen “porpoising,” or jumping out of the water, presumably to add speed to their swimming.
At a recent encounter with hundreds of sea lions hauled out on a beach near Elk Horn Slough, I was convinced they were barking out the tune to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” So I joined in with the beautiful lyrics that Jann Aldredge-Clanton has married with that traditional tune:
O Holy Darkness, loving womb, who nurtures and creates,
Sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
Where streams of richest beauty flows from sacred living wells.
Unfortunately our presidential administration is taking us into an even more intense night of regression. May our prayers, songs and actions sustain us and empower us to open gates of justice and care for people and creatures, including Mother Earth herself.
O Holy Christ-Sophia, your image black and fair,
Stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of Earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.