Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat

This has been a year of weather extremes in Portland. Last winter the city was socked by snow and ice storms it didn't have the money, equipment, personnel, or material (salt and sand) to deal with. Everything was shut down for days. We couldn't get our car out of the cul-de-sac for a week - which was fine with me.

Last month, Portland came within a degree of breaking its all-time high temperature. I heard from someone that that day Portland was the third hottest place in the world, hotter even than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Portland also came close to breaking its record for the most consecutive days over 100 degrees. The weather yesterday was a relatively mild 85 degrees but it was humid and I was grumpy.

I've expended a lot of energy this year complaining about the weather. I know we don't have it so bad - I've heard stories of heat in Phoenix so intense that it melts the pavement - but perspective is difficult for me on this. Mid-August is usually when I start to physically crave the rain, and this year especially so.

I've been reading Kathleen Norris's latest book, "Acedia & Me." In addition to being a personal, cultural, historical, spiritual and literary exploration of acedia - an uncommon enough word, meaning "absence of care," that Microsoft Word doesn't recognize it - this moving book recalls her marriage to the poet David Dwyer, his struggles with mental illness, and his death from cancer in 2003.

There is a passage in chapter six in which Norris remembers walking to visit her husband in a psychiatric ward on a day when it was so frigid that it hurt to breathe. As she cursed the cold and icy pavement under feet, she recalled the words of a canticle from the Sunday divine office. She was, she wrote, unaccountably consoled. "The words were now a part of me, and when I most needed them, the rhythms of my walking had stirred them up, to erode my anxiety and self-pity, and remind me that blessings may be found in all things." All things, indeed.

I don't spend enough time memorizing scripture. I tend to intellectualize it. I forget that there is power there. The fourth century Desert Fathers and Mothers believed that even when a monk was reciting words of scripture in a language he did not understand, the demons with which he was in constant struggle were forced to flee.

Today I'm trying to commit to memory the words from Kathleen Norris's canticle.

Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat...
Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow...
Bless the Lord, nights and days...
Bless the Lord, light and darkness...
Bless the Lord, ice and cold...
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever

(Daniel 3:45-50)


  1. No way Portland was the third hottest place in the world unless Phoenix was in the top two.

    To be fair, though, Portland was probably more unbearable.

  2. I hear you on the memorizing scripture thing. I always feel like a less hot version of Mandy Moore in a Walk to Remember though when I'm trying to recite verses(a dorky Bible beater). However, there have been some tough times in my life when a verse that I didn't even realize I knew has kept me going. Right now it's this one:

    Matthew 6:25-27

    25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

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