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I often think about darkness and light in existential terms, wondering: Can we celebrate the good without fully knowing the bad?

Southern Oregon rainbow. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Rainbow over flags at a used car lot on first day of spring. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Despair visited this week, without warning. I’m busy with post-graduate study and writing, and I had no reason to feel hopeless. I had encountered a setback, that was all.

I meditated on it.

People I love are suffering. Some are in mourning; others are enduring what is known as “anticipatory grief”. After sudden illness, long surgeries, and more, they fear loss and more suffering. For a few, doctors have warned that loss is imminent.

Others are unemployed. One is stung by the disappointment of yet another job interview with no outcome. Employers don’t bother anymore to even send a “no thanks” form email. It’s dispiriting.

Another loved one was just informed this week that he is to be “laid off” — our modern euphemism for termination. This, after he had his hours cut, and after his wife’s hours also had been reduced.

Still others are victims of Washington’s sequestration. Their “furloughs” appear to be happy Fridays off to outsiders; they’re actually 20% pay cuts.

I’ve been meditating on others’ losses and examining how we can be affected by  existential despair.

I examined despair, tugging at my sleeve.

I walked for an hour amid spring blossoms and marveled at juncoes and chickadees along the path, and still could not shake it. My husband and I went to our favorite woods for a long hike, and paused to listen to a woodpecker drilling at the top of a near-dead tree. We missed the deer.

I wrote letters to send love to some; sent emails to others; and scheduled a Skype call with a family touched by loss. We’re here; I’m here; count on us.

My prayers are filled with hope and all the goodness I can send long-distance to friends and family who are touched by despair.

First day of spring and Persian new year

Despair hovered still, on the first day of spring. The new season opened with dark, threatening skies, then unexpected rain. When I emerged from a business meeting that restored my hope, a faint rainbow appeared through the dark clouds.

We dashed to capture it with our little camera, dodging a lumbering garbage truck to take the shot over a used car lot. We were quarreling, then laughing, in the rain.

An hour later, the rainbow had grown and grown, to arc over our entire city. We gave thanks for this universal sign of hope, on the first day of spring.

It was a great start to Norooz, the Persian new year — that always hopeful first day celebrated by my family. (Norooz = “new day.”)

I am grateful for knowing darkness, because it makes me ever so joyous in the light.

Southern Oregon rainbow. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Happy Norooz: A rainbow on Persian New Year. (Kathleen Kenna photo)