Last week was hard. There were fresh waves of anxiety over a huge spike in Covid cases in my city. Relief that our curve was flat for so many months gave way to weariness and worry. Now each day we’re getting more new cases than we had total from March to mid-June. Our curve is flat….just in the wrong direction: straight up to the sky. The city is open–and our total deaths doubled last week.
Then I was devastated trying to face how far we have to go in fighting injustice and racial inequality. Learning about the death of Elijah McClain wrecked me. My friend Gloria Purvis’s EWTN radio show was dropped by Guadalupe Radio Network because conversations about racism were “uncomfortable” for listeners. What hope do we to make progress in the Church if faithful Catholics discussing racism–on the only EWTN show hosted by Black Catholics–are silenced? Then a prominent pro-life Catholic figure with a bad track record of supporting white nationalists released a video saying she thinks it’s smart of police officers to racially profile her adopted son who is biracial. I felt sick.
Then a young, healthy man in his 20s who was a part of our Latin Mass community and a friend of several of my friends died from Covid. It just made the grief so many thousands of families are going through so real. I felt like I was being kicked in the face from every side and so helpless.
I sat on my front stoop while the kids were watching a movie inside I was feeling utterly defeated. I looked at my phone and a friend had shared a video of a young white woman singing the National Anthem to be recorded for Portland State University’s graduation. As she began singing, a Black opera singer who was passing by started singing with her and their voices harmonized so beautifully and powerfully that I just sobbed right there in my yard.
I cried because of how far we are from having the harmony that flows from justice and I cried because their voices were a thing of beauty.
I thought about our desperate need for beauty and that made me think of Rilla Blythe in the final book of the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, set during WWI on the homefront in Canada. I found so much comfort in re-reading Rilla of Ingleside early during lockdown. I drew strength from the attitude of running the Blythe home and participating in the community life of their little town of Glen St. Mary as part of the Blythe family’s war effort. Staying home and making life beautiful for my children was the battle I was fighting–and it still is.
But now I sympathize with Rilla and the other Blythes as the war and the uncertainty dragged on and on. There were days when the grief was so heavy that Anne Blythe, formerly the spunky Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, would stay in her bed all day. To be perfectly honest, I’ve had a day or two like that over the past months.
And there were days when determined and capable Rilla would get weary and dip into despair. And so she would go to Rainbow Valley.
Rainbow Valley was the nearby place of beauty and a bit of wilderness where the Blythes and their friends played as children. It was a place of joy and imagination. And Rilla goes there as a young adult during the Great War when things get dark to cry, to recover, to dream. Then she stands up and walks back to her responsibilities–caring for a war baby, supporting her family, doing her bit in the war effort, getting through each day by the grace of God.
We are facing a long war–against a virus, against injustice, against false gospels that are tearing apart the Church. We will need to cultivate our Rainbow Valleys. We will need to retreat to a place of beauty and goodness to draw strength to fight another day.
Perhaps we will…
Play beautiful music.
Meditate on sacred art.
Read a poem slowly.
Watch a movie that brings joy.
Dive into books with powerful stories.
Pick flowers and put them in vases.
Take a walk.
Notice the beauty of the people in our home.
Draw strength from the story of God’s love for us in the Scriptures.
Sing a hymn.
Savor a cinnamon roll.
Call a friend.
Bake a cake.
Sit around the table and laugh with our families.
Reach out for the Source of all beauty in prayer.
Remember, as Samwise Gamgee says, “There is some good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Find your Rainbow Valley and go there, rest there, cry there, laugh there. You will need it. Because there is work to be done and it isn’t going to be easy. But joy and goodness and justice and truth are worth fighting for. We cannot lose heart.
Making sure that you saw Simcha Fisher’s interview with four black Catholics in response to Abby Johnson’s video. That interview was a game-changer for me. I was so struck by what each person said during that interview. Watch it – definitely worth your time and will give you great hope!
Thank you for letting me know about ESPN dropping your friend’s show. I will contact them to express my displeasure about that. I started to email our diocese about racial issues, then I deleted what I wrote. It is hard to know what to say/the right thing to say, as a white female. I would really like you to continue speaking on this issue, Haley. And please give a guest post opportunity on your blog to your friend whose show was cut from ESPN. I would like to hear more perspectives different from my own so I can better understand. I also greatly need resources in how to lead my children in understanding these issues.
I have that video saved to watch! Just haven’t had a chance yet. Thank you for the reminder. And just to clarify, EWTN didn’t stop producing the show but Guadalupe Radio Network no longer broadcasts it. It would be great to contact EWTN to offer support to Gloria and the Morning Glory team!
Thank you Haley. This comes at the perfect moment for me. I couldn’t get out of my bed until 9:30 today…not my norm by any means. You spoke right to my feelings.
I wish I had a real Rainbow Valley to hike up to. I grew up going to see my grandparents most summers in Colorado, and being in the Rocky Mountains or near them was something like this kind of therapy for me. But now, both my grandparents live here in Houston, and both have Alzheimer’s, and I can’t even visit either one of them. Thank you for the ideas of things we *can* do, even within the limitations of no socializing with friends/family, no travelling and family vacations, no mountains.
Kate S. says
This is incredibly timely. I felt so defeated yesterday. Your words are a balm and I am saving this post to come back to again later when I find myself, once again, needing to cut through the noise. Thank you!
I didn’t remember that Anne stayed in her room all day in that book! You are right! Why does that somehow make me feel better about my pandemic capacities or lack thereof. Hang in there. Prayers headed your way from Toronto.
I’m crying. This, everything, is so hard. Thank you for your words and your encouragement. Maybe I’ll have to pick up the rest of the Anne books to read aloud with my kids. I appreciate you!
Your words touched me. It does indeed feel like such a sad and heavy time. And how VERY sad about your young friend who passed. I will pray for that family. God bless you and all who are reading!
Your words give voice to so many of my thoughts and feelings, Haley. Thank you!
This struck a chord with me today –
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places, but still there is much that is fair, and though in all the lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring
I am going to my Rainbow Valley this week. Your words spur me on to seek solace. Thank you!
That quotation showed up in my daily gratitude calendar a couple of months ago, and it meant so much to me at the time that I saved it. I thought of it again when I read Haley’s blog post. Guess I wasn’t the only one…
Elizabeth B says
Just beautiful, Hallie. I am so grateful for your words and insight.
Sally Fisher says
Thank you, Haley. Our battle–The Battle– is and always has been a battle with the principalities and powers, the ruler of this present darkness. You are wise to cultivate the peace of your own heart and your own family. God sees your heart. In the world we will have trouble but Jesus has overcome the world. Let us strive to belong entirely to him!
I have often thought about Rilla of Ingleside during this pandemic. I need to re-read it. Another book that has come to mind and brought comfort and joy is Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther. Have you read that one?
Thanks for this post. I am a theology teacher near Minneapolis. My community is so caught up trying to plan for COVID that many people have no time for conversations about racism. But our students need us to do something so badly! I have felt defeated by the Church’s weak response to everything that is going on in our country, and especially my state. Your post made me hopeful that young Catholics are moving and speaking for change and justice. And, reminding me that the fight is worth it!