The far north is a place where things are pared down, taken to the lowest common denominators of life. Rock, water, sun, insects and wind. And of course, in the winter, snow and ice. It is a place where the word survival is never far from one’s thoughts.
It was a marvel to me how the tiny delicate flowers of Baffin Island could survive. There is very little soil there, yet they spring up and cling to solid rock. Vibrant dwarf fireweed, saxifrage, anemones and the ever-present Arctic cotton. As my friends and I walked across it, the tundra seemed to be in motion as the tiny ones swayed in the constant wind, lifting their heads toward a far-away sun. We stepped around them, our heads bent in homage, our camera shutters clicking.
As I moved across that barren landscape I couldn’t help but think of the barren landscape of cancer I had been wandering in. The similarities were stark. After the diagnosis, there wasn’t much to hang onto at times. The winds of fear and loss seemed always in my face and the sun seemed oh so far away. But as I thought about beginning the first round of chemotherapy, I stared at a bright yellow anemone and took heart. If this little one can survive in this, her desolate place, then so shall I in mine, I reasoned, by doing what she does season after season. Cling to the rock.
My Rock was more solid and everlasting than those slowly disintegrating across the tundra. My Rock spoke and comforted and held my hand. My Rock carried me when my knees buckled and cradled my head when I just needed to cry. My Rock hid me in its cleft and set my feet on a firm foundation.
And when I “lift up my eyes to the hills,” and ask, “Where does my help come from?” He answers – “My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber … The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:1-8, NIV).