Whoa oh oh oh
Well this is life in color
Today feels like no other
And the darkest grays
The sun bursts, clouds fade
Whoa oh oh oh
Well this is life in motion
And just when I could run this race no more
The sun bursts, clouds break
This is life in color
--One Republic, Life in ColorCertain artists transport me back to specific points in time. Glen Phillips, the Decembrists, and Matt Wertz send me back to the sumer Quinn was born; Mumford and Sons to the year after Emmett died; Kate Rusby back to the streets and libraries of Oxford. I suspect this song will forever transport me back to the Everglades. It was playing as I left my brother's condo last Friday morning to pick up the rental van, but I never suspected it would stick with me.
On our summer swamp tour, Quinn and I were strangely fortunate to be followed by storm clouds wherever we went. Temperatures that normally soared well above 90 in South Georgia and South Florida lingered in the mid 80s, and the glaring sun was frequently hidden behind storm clouds. I say swamp tour, but the Everglades is actually more of a coastal marshland. It was a vastly different type of ecosystem from the Okefenokee. Instead of lily pads and cypress trees, the Everglades consists of vast plains of marsh grass soaking in shallow water, criss crossed with wide brackish channels lined with mangroves and occasionally opening up into vast shallow lakes.
As we left one of the channels and headed into Bear Lake, the sunshine that had been bearing down on us was quickly swallowed by a typical South Florida summer storm. The world was split into vibrant colors under a blue sky on one side with muted grays and browns below the storm clouds on the other. The picture above hardly does the landscape justice because you can't see how the sky affected even the colors of the land. Under the blue sky, the green foliage glowed like a freshly painted canvas, but underneath the storm clouds the land reflected almost no color from the light.
I've had a few occasions this past week to speak with several friends about experiencing grief in community. We laugh over awkward moments and wonder why we as the body of Christ struggle to grieve together well. Grief bears down like a storm cloud, casting everything in shadow, sucking the life and beauty out of your world, recoloring life in browns and grays. It is no wonder people have trouble responding. Few can enter into such a storm with grace, and it is impossible to drag someone out of such a storm with shallow platitudes, though many people often try. But I have learned that perhaps the best response to grief is to bring a little bit of color into the storm. An orchid, a perfectly ripe piece of fruit, a piece of artwork, or a beautiful teacup -- some of these things I have given to those in grief and some I have received from dear friends. Because I've learned that while you cannot change the weather, you can remind people that there is life in color just waiting for the storm to break.
The view from my brother's condo after a storm.