I am not sure what it is about this time of year, but somehow I always come upon the best books. In the past it was The Help and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and Dovekeepers and Wild. All books I have recommended over and over again to people because of the simple joy of reading them.
This year is no exception. I read a lot about books that are released, and I keep an ongoing wish list of the ones I want to read. But every once in a while one pops up and catches my attention so completely, I have to read it right away.
Such was the case with Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell. Never mind that I am a complete fanatic about books that take place in Mississippi. This book is beautifully written and the characters will not be forgotten by me for a very long time.
One of the characters is a black minister (Levi) who steps out of line and gets his church burned down as a lesson. After that he goes a little crazy, feeling that God has abandoned him. Yesterday I read one of the most revealing and riveting parts of the book where Levi is talking to 6-year-old Johnny, a lonely little kid who lost his brother in an accident. They are watching fireflies when Levi has a revelation about the darkness they are both living in. Johnny is pointing to the fireflies as proof of God winking in and out of the darkness. Then Levi has an epiphany:
“I see it, Lord. With the eyes of a child. I see it clear. It wasn’t a sign to stop, but to step out.”…”I know what must be done. I hear your voice calling to me, ‘Step with me into the darkness. Step with me into the darkness.'”
Right now I am not feeling darkness in my life, but I know plenty of people who are. I think it is always a good reminder that wherever we are is the perfect place for us. I still fight that sometimes — well, all the time. I am reminded of the line in the song “Fireflies” — It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep/ ‘Cause everything is never as it seems.
Our perception of the world is all we have. The Buddhist call it phenomenon, and remind us we shouldn’t buy into it. Our world is all about who is winning and who is losing, who is up and who is down, who is right and who is wrong. All phenomenon with no real meaning. Yet, we buy into it again and again.
The fireflies are indeed those moments that we remember what is important. We remember that darkness is not really darkness, but just a place to dwell in peace. The last couple of paragraphs from the chapter say it better than I can, so I will end with it:
His eyes were pools of light, he whispered to Johnny, “Child, the darkness is God. And you and me and your momma and Vida — we all been moving through His very heart.” Levi motioned into the night. “See? He ain’t forgot about us.”
Johnny looked to where he pointed. The yard was now studded with fireflies, their twinklings multiplied through the prism of his tears. It was as if all the stars in heaven had settled in around them.