The longest day in the world

* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.

“There are larks and there are owls.”

Somehow, this little quip emerges from my sluggish brain when my alarm rings at 4:30 a.m. I am decidedly not a lark. That much is evident in my tired, clumsy movements as I pull on my work boots and layers. The sleepiness leaves me more quickly than usual, as if my body can sense the special occasion.

I arrive at the farm two minutes before sunrise and eye the gargantuan cactus which stands at the farm’s entrance like a royal guardian. This morning, I notice a series of bone-white blossoms with long, finger-like petals. The cactus is named “Queen of the Night” and identified by her lovely nocturnal blooms. I’ve never seen them before this morning—another feature marking today’s sacred quality.

I meet my friends in the field where we create a makeshift circle of seating with overturned crates and assorted chairs. As we settle into our spots, our youngest member, Karlina unsheathes her elegant guitar. Karlina is the daughter of our farm manager, and admittedly I am guilty of forgetting Karlina’s age. Too often I treat her like the woman of impenetrable composure she resembles rather than someone on the brink of adolescence. Soon, Karlina and her sister will travel to Mexico by themselves in order to visit family. They seem so young to make such a trek on their own, but then again, Karlina’s mother was the same age when she came, alone, to live in the United States. I wonder how young or old or timeless we all must appear in the eyes of the eternal. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1:24).

Regardless of her youth, Karlina is our leader this morning. With a low, confident voice, she announces the title of our first song. Blue light emits from our small handheld screens displaying lyrics and chords. The light is more prominent than that of the rising sun which hasn’t yet burnt away the coast’s thick grey overcoat. We have both monolingual English speakers and monolingual Spanish speakers within our intimate circle, so as we sing our praises, English and Spanish are continuously being stitched together. I haven’t heard some of these songs in months, years even, and in this moment those seasons of life seem like completely different lives. Yet the lyrics are inexplicably familiar, going beyond the words of memory. I contemplate some of these familiar names and terms in Spanish and marvel at how different they sound to my ears, how they must sound echoing in the heavenly places.

My eyes rise to the horizon, which is slowly shifting into focus, and I remember that yesterday evening we all watched the moon rise over the same horizon. Together we stood transfixed by the magical quality of the honey-hued moon, and with a soft smile Lisa had said, “La luna de miel.”

Press conference with protest signs

We had gathered at the farm, along with many others, for a press conference wherein health professionals, farmers, and farmworkers spoke about their experiences with pesticide exposure, specifically chlorpyrifos, which is as dreadful as it is unpronounceable. Our farm manager, Reyna, was the final speaker in the lineup and shared her own story with her usual unswerving confidence, eloquence, and powerful presence. Cameras strained to capture her testimony as her eldest daughter, Maria, looked on with knowing eyes, holding an artfully painted sign of protest. The ceaseless activism accomplished by these two women is absolutely stunning. Inseparable from such work is their faith, which is the source of their abundant love and tireless commitment to justice for all. Their faith is the wild and reckless sort, the kind which compels folks like me to rise before the sun and gather in the fields to worship.

The love I have for these women, for all the people who I’ve shared life with over the past couple of months, goes beyond words. I close my eyes and dig my heels into this moment which is pregnant with peace and gratitude. Despite my straining, each second is eclipsed by the next until like the tide, time has come to steal the sand from underfoot. I surrender to the moment’s passing. There is no other option. Instead, “I will locate the point of dawning and awaken with the longest day in the world.”

Amen.

Rock cross at sunrise