I remember vividly watching Apollo 13 for the first time, particularly the nervous part where the endangered astronauts pass to the dark side of the moon. Because the moon is between them and earth, there is radio silence. They’re unable to communicate with the world outside and are left in an anxious state of separation, not really knowing if they’ll make it around to the other side.
Sometimes, winter here is like that.
It’s hard to reach out into the darkness and the world outside Alaska feels more remote. Mail takes longer to get here as the barges that bring it up from the lower 48 often have to break through ice to reach us. The store shelves often go barren in spots when shipments don’t arrive as expected. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not as good of quality and sometimes harder to find. Everyone seems moody, withdrawn a bit, as they sink into the darkest part of the year. Holiday lights help some, but the darkness seems to devour even their cheerful light.
It is against this backdrop and my looming trip to the north slope that disappointing news came our way yesterday and it came on several fronts.
For reasons I’ll spare you, dear reader, we must move our Shabbat RV 2.0. This will make attending shul on Shabbos much more expensive and difficult. There are hotels near shul, but their rates are high enough we will probably only be able to attend shul once a month. The RV, although cold, allowed us to attend almost every Shabbos. This comes at a time when we all badly felt the need to feel some connection.
The other news is that there may be more complications with us finding a Beit Din to convert us. When we met with our local sponsoring Rabbi before the high holidays, he was hopeful and had some plans, but the fall has been very busy and nothing has moved forward. It is looking more and more like nothing will move forward until after we have moved and that we may have to begin again with a new sponsoring Rabbi in our new community. This could potentially add 1-2 more years to our conversion process and essentially mean our time spent working here in Alaska doesn’t really count as far as conversion goes.
As our minds worked through all this after our meeting with our Rabbi, I looked at Mr. Safek across the table from me. In the years we’ve been in this process, his beard has grayed and our children have grown from little ones to a teenager and tween. I could tell he was crushed, thinking of all that lay ahead for us when he thought we were nearing a happy ending of our story.
“Well, we’ve put in this many years…what is one or two more in the grand scheme of things?” I did my best to smile, to lighten the mood, “and that’s the worst case. Perhaps another door will open in the meantime.”
Sometimes the only way out of something difficult is through it. It’s true of difficult projects at work, a tough hike through the mountains, and it’s definitely true of winter. The only way back from the dark side of the moon is to just keep going, keep waiting for the light and the signal to return. It’s hard accepting that we have so little control or power over our own lives…but we don’t.
It’s all in Hashem’s hands and it always has been.
But we sure could use some sunshine or some connection now.