Yesterday my favorites and I took a trip to Rose Island — the location of a once glamorous resort and theme park on a piece of land known as Devil’s Backbone, right on the Ohio River, just as it branches off at Fourteen Mile Creek. In the early 1920’s, a man by the name of…wait for it Schitt’s Creek fans…David Rose (!!!!) developed this popular spot for leisure. Cottages, a hotel, a massive dining facility, a dance hall, the first filtered swimming pool in the Midwest, even a zoo graced it all, and folks came from far and wide, either by boat, or via a long-gone suspension bridge to relax, unwind, and near as I can tell, party 1920’s style.
Rose Island’s guest list dwindled mightily when the Great Depression hit. Then came The Great Flood of 1937, destroying just about everything in its path. And so, for the last 80 or so years, Rose Island has been reclaimed by nature, and to walk through it now feels like walking through a delightful and eerie bit of history: the edges of the zoo cages visible just above the earth; tall trees standing in the depressed bit of land that once held the hotel; beautiful wrought iron arches, grown over with ivy, marking what was once a dazzling entry way; the pool long filled in but its side ladders still intact; the boat dock washed away with only three stone pillars remaining to mark where it once was.
(Why someone has not made a blockbuster movie about what was once there is beyond me.)
I walked slowly and softly through it. It was a gray day, and rain threatened, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. Except for our voices exclaiming over various things found along the way, it was so quiet. So still. It was easy to close your eyes and imagine sparkling evenings of merriment long gone. Here we were, on the cusp of this godawful year’s end, walking through the ruins of what must have been a place of laughter, of joy, of community and connection. It makes no sense to say this, but the presence of what had once been was almost palpable.
And somehow, hopeful.
I felt so alive. So very much alive.
Even as, like all of us, I carry with me the grief and fear and anxiety of a year that has taken its toll in ways we have yet to discover.
It’s New Year’s Eve. Perhaps the most anticipated one in recent collective memory. You can list as well as I can the things that have threatened to undo us. That have, some days, left us on our knees, shaken and worn, and begging for something bigger than we are to somehow make sense of it all. To rescue us from the dumpster fire that has been 2020.
In the face of what has been, I know this to be true: this life we live, it is the most painfully beautiful combination of joy and heartache. And we humans, we are capable of such grace, even as we are capable of utter selfishness. We are capable of as much destruction as we are creation. We are capable of as much love as we are hate.
And that means that what will be is up to us.
As much as we’d like for it to, all the ugly isn’t going away at midnight. There’s so much that is broken, that it will take us a good long while to find wholeness again. Still, I believe we can. Maybe I just choose to believe that–but in the choosing itself there is hope.
My friend Sunny and her husband are parents by adoption of two delightful and gorgeous little humans. And in the long months of waiting before the first adoption, these courageous parents made a choice to believe that a child would one day be theirs. So much that they went ahead creating a nursery, filling its shelves with books and toys for the child who would one day be. And I remember thinking what a brave thing that was–this making space for something they had no assurance of, but that they believed with all their beings might one day happen.
This is faith.
Of the fiercest kind.
No, tomorrow won’t mean all things new. Not just yet.
But choosing to believe that it might, I think, makes space for the healing that could be. That will be, should we choose to begin the work of making it happen.
So much was lost at Rose Island. And in some ways it felt so sad.
But also? In the wake of what has been, a haven has been created there. And for my soul, battered and bruised this year, just like yours, the space cleared by mighty waters and the slow march of time has given way to something good and true and beautiful.
And so my prayer this night is that in the wake of all that has been since last New Year’s Eve–the loss, the heartache, the fear, the anger, the hate, the anxiety, all of it collective–there has been made space to remember that what matters most is how we live this life…together.
If Ram Dass was right, and we are all just “walking each other home,” then it seems the very best thing we could do at midnight is, if we’re lucky, grab the hand of a loved one and promise, “You are not alone.” And if we are not as lucky, trust anyway that we are not alone.
Because over and around us all, is the Love that created us, just waiting to dive into the spaces in our lives where we need that Love most, washing away what has been, so that what will be has room to do its lovely and merciful work.
Happy New Year, beloveds.