Written in the sky

Glorious clouds

By Sherrie Robins

It was a most unusual day. It had started out differently. Ordinary. Nice. With a bit of spontaneous adventure thrown in.

We headed out to grab the last vestiges of the sunflower fields. It was later in the Fall, but thought that some interesting shots must still be there. My Son had recently earned his drone pilot’s license, and he was ready to use it! I love tagging along, on my always curious adventure of finding new photos.

We arrived and honestly, it was a field of almost all dead flowers, something that wouldn’t work very well for drone footage.

Undaunted, we headed out towards the lake. Lake Ontario offers the lure of a great photo opportunity.

We were zigzagging  through the countryside, when I spotted a darling country church. With the Autumn leaves in force, we agreed this could also work for us.

So we left the car and came towards the church from the other side, revealing a beautiful tree lined lane leading down the center of a large cemetery. I grabbed some shots of Sean, walking there, amidst the trees and tombstones and thinking of his near brush with death…but that’s another story.

Sean then took his turn and let the drone do it’s work, to his satisfaction.

We eventually meandered over to the Niagara River at it’s mouth, leading into Lake Ontario. Here he got the eye-candy shots he’d been looking for.

Later in the day, after our journey had concluded, I stopped at the grocery store.  Police and various emergency vehicles were lined up in front of the entrance, so I hesitated to venture in, but they were finishing up and and waved me in.

Curious as to the nature of the incident and knowing it probably wasn’t good, I hoped for the best. But, I came to find out, a man had just died.

Perusing the aisles, amidst broccoli and baked breads my mind wandered. What had he been thinking? Did he realize that this very ordinary errand would be his final deed?

At the checkout, a cashier filled me in. The gentleman and his wife were on their way home from the hospital, where he had just been discharged. They’d stopped in to pick up a few groceries when he began tp experience some pain and became in need of assistance. My cashier had urged him to let her call an ambulance, but he said he was fine.  Again she’d offered, but he refused. Soon he collapsed. The ambulance came anyway.   He didn’t make it.

After all, it had just been a trip to the store. I’m sure he’d been hundreds of times during his lifetime. Yet, this was the end.

So, I left with my purchases, mulling it all over.

Loading up my goods in the trunk, I couldn’t help but notice the sky developing towards something good and quickly grabbed my camera. The day’s events were rolling around in my mind. The dead sunflower field. The trip to the graveyard. The man’s last moments in the grocery store.

I watched as the huge clouds billowed and blossomed, slowly but steadily ballooning before my eyes. Great giant cauliflower heads, juxtaposed against dark, gloomy storm clouds.

As all this played out, the sun’s setting rays reached from behind, lighting the sky afire.

It was all so…should I say it, heavenly?

And then, as clear as anything, a Scripture verse popped into my mind “Oh death, where is your victory, oh grave, where is your sting?”

The point had been made. Through this ordinary/extraordinary day, death had been woven throughout. We’d been searching for anything but; the life and beauty of  flowers, the stateliness of a country church, amid the colorful life of autumn and finally engaging in the completely ordinary task of picking up groceries to bring happiness and health to our family. Then, it came down to my continual pursuit of photos which turned out to reveal a poignant wrap up for the entire day! The crowning glory of it!

The day should have, or at least could have had a pall over it. It had been marred by death. But the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence sent shivers down my spine.

Reflecting on all that had transpired, the events had culminated in a final point, beautifully portrayed through that drama in the sky. We can indeed, search for life amidst the ashes. Because, inevitably, we all face it, this thing called death. Every person born on the planet, this place called earth. This wonderful, amazing, awesome, painful, dreadful, unbelievable place.

Perhaps one day I may revisit the cemetery and read some of the epitaphs written on the tombstones to see what those who walked our path before us felt was important enough to leave as their parting words. I may walk, down that tree lined lane, grateful our Son is still with us. Or maybe I’ll stroll through the sunflower field in summer, soaking in it’s warmth, pondering how all will soon be brown and dry and fall to the earth. Or I might even comb the aisles of that store, remembering how a man had once done the same, and picked up his last loaf of bread, never to be eaten.

But most importantly and most assuredly, I will recall the revelation of water droplets and light, which declared hope, written in the sky for all to see. It was the beauty, the glory, that took the sting out of it all. The verse dropped into my heart; the bloom of heaven, light revealed, causing darkness to slink away. “Oh grave, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”

Yes. That was enough for me.

Hold On…

Stark Against Blue Sky-001.jpg-2.jpg-1
Original artwork, Sherrie Robins

It was just another Tuesday.

Just another day to fall short of my goals. To fall into the negative patterned sometimes words in my head, vile and self-berating; an unfortunate family trait.

I plodded through the city streets, absently looking at the black zig-zagged patterns which had been sprayed on an old brick wall. Some would call it graffiti, I thought it looked more like dark side of the inner workings of my mind, and it repelled me.

You see, I wasn’t one of the uppers. One of the cream, who floated to the top. Someone, after-all, had to clean up after everyone else.

I worked at a hospital and among my tasks was to pick up the broken pieces, parts which had to be disposed of.  I carted them down the basement corridor to their final resting place; the incinerator. I wondered at the day when I might end up there, whole, and turned into ashes.

But something in me fought the ugly and the blackness that continually tried to snuff out anything good I had inside. There was a duality, which sometimes I cherished, and sometimes was just an irritation.

Though negativity threatened to douse the light, I held on tight and searched frantically at the end of the tunnel. A little voice inside my head just wouldn’t shut up. “Hold on!” For the life of me I couldn’t figure out where it had come from. My family was nothing but soot and sludge and mud on my boots. It hadn’t come from them.

My eyes had always seen the one flower struggling to grow on the side of the cliff. They had spied out the reflection of the sky in a broken window.

My ears had learned to hear a note and a song, above the traffic below on the city streets. Sirens would blare, horns would honk and the hum of brakes and motors would buzz on all night long. But I would hear that single voice or song as the car with the open window passed by.

Even though the smell of sulfur emanated from the factory and hovered over our neighborhood like a dark cloud, my nose would yearn for the bakery, remembering the incense of freshly baked bread.

All day, my hands touched the untouchable. Uncomfortable gloves closed off the air and made me itch. But they longed for the soft, blanket-like fur of my cat, who loved me more than I loved myself.

The air of my neighborhood was not fresh, but chemical laden. The hospital smelled of antiseptic and rot and all things foul. I couldn’t eat when I was at work. I brought a can of chocolate flavored artificial vitamins and plugged my nose and gulped, trying not to wretch. But oh, the food that awaited me when I came home! My neighbor lady, downstairs was always cooking up a storm. She was European and smelled of onions, and gardens, and foreign salty seas. Every night she had a container of food waiting and kindly handed it to me when I walked in the door.

“Hold on!” said the voice, through her homemade perogies.

“Hold on!” said my purring fluff of fur.

“Hold on!” said the bread and the sky’s reflection and the flower on the cliff.

Deep inside I knew that Spring followed winter and sun followed cloud. That the light of just one candle would break through the empty darkness of the long, long night.

And so I fought that darkness that was within, though hope despaired.

“Hold on!” cried the candle and the voice and the lives spared inside the corridors of antiseptic and pain.

And so, I did…