A Creature that Makes its Own Light

A Creature that Makes its Own Light November 15, 2023

We’ve been going for drives.

Adrienne sits in the front seat so she can chat with me, and I drive up and down the back country roads, admiring nature.

Fall is the loveliest season in Northern Appalachia. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than a twisting road around a shale cliff, splashed with every shade of warm color under a piercing blue sky. But the fall is almost spent now, and most of the color is gone. There are leaves on the ground, raked into piles or left where they fell. There are hardly any leaves in the trees.

Now that the clocks were set back, there’s precious little daylight after school. We’ve found ourselves going for drives in twilight, when the sky goes from blue to white to orange and then black. It’s not a good way to admire what color is left on the trees. But one by one, the houses on the country roads are already beginning to put out their Christmas lights, so we admire those instead.

I used to think it was tacky to put out your Christmas lights before December, but I am converted now. Now I appreciate the people who put out Christmas lights as soon as the Halloween things are taken down. As soon as the natural color fades away, humans devise artificial color. As soon as the sunlight abandons us, we begin to make our own light.

A human being is a creature who fights against the rhythms of nature in this way, by creating light and color to protest that the light and color have disappeared.

November is also the time for white tailed deer.

I don’t know why it’s the time of year we see them most often in Northern Appalachia. I don’t know very much about the life cycle of white tailed deer.  I think they’re fattening up for the cold. Their sides are soft and round, not bony like in the summer, and they are not afraid of a passing vehicle. They look up as we drive by, cautious but unalarmed– sometimes people bring them buckets of cracked corn to feed them, after all. Some deer get so used to people that they walk up, expecting a treat.

Their lack of fear will be the white tailed deer’s downfall. It will be hunting season soon. Hunters will come in from other parts of the world, looking for a trophy, and the deer will die. The Appalachian hunters who live here year round will stock their freezers with venison to last until next November, and their families will eat no matter how hard times get.

A human being is a creature who admires other animals, and also feeds and cares for them, and also kills and eats them.

There’s a place on our favorite winding road where I drive past a church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and I cringe. Just seeing the name on the kiosk reminds me of all those years wasted, trying to be a good Catholic saint instead of whatever it is that I am. The abusive, life-destroying sect known as the Charismatic Renewal. Losing everything at Franciscan University. Tying so hard to be a good Catholic mother, the PCOS murdering my chances for a great big happy brood of children, the autism making it impossible to be sociable with the Catholic in-crowd. The loneliness and religious trauma getting worse and worse and then the horrible revelations all around Steubenville: the cold realization that the corner of the Catholic Church I belonged to was an abusive cult, Father Mike Scanlan and his proteges are monsters rather than saints, and I was hurting myself for nothing all that time.  And then I gave up on being a good person. I decided to be myself instead.

A human being is a creature who wonders whether she is a good person.

A human being is a creature who lives in the suspense that she might not be a good person.

A human being is a creature who comes out to the Ohio Valley on a quest to be a saint. Her lack of caution with people she was told would feed her soul is her downfall. Everything she does goes wrong. She ruins her whole life, but somewhere along the way she has the most wonderful child. Next thing she knows, the child is a young woman and they are driving around Northern Appalachia together,  watching the color fade and new color rise up to take its place. She finds she likes the place where she is.

She loses the color and light in her life, and finds a way to bring it back.

She feels she’s lost Christ entirely, for a season, and now she feels as if she’s getting Him back. He is different and better than she thought.

She is happy, or nearly.

It’s going to be all right.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

""Bin Laden didn’t bravely sacrifice himself. He sat on his rear end and sent people ..."

Dear Gen Z: Bin Laden Was ..."
"So beautiful. Thank you,"

A Creature that Makes its Own ..."
"We need government because it can do things that individuals can't do by themselves such ..."

Yes, We Do Need Bloated Bureaucracy
"Corporation bureaucracy can be just as bad when it comes to not being able to ..."

Yes, We Do Need Bloated Bureaucracy

Browse Our Archives