Standing outside the car this morning at home, I looked up at black clouds churning against a charcoal grey background. "Beautiful!" I exclaimed. "Threatening," another voice murmured in my ear, as I thought of lightning strikes and tornado warnings. A few minutes later, as I stepped out of the car on campus, the chill wind whipped tree branches and my fresh-washed hair. "Invigorating!" I cried. "Destructive," that other voice whispered, as I trod on pear blossoms and broken twigs littering the ground.
A "terrible beauty," Yeats called the martrydom of the Irish rebels. A "terrible gift," Byron called melancholia. The world is "terribly good," says Stanhope in Charles Williams' novel Descent into Hell.
Life is made of paradox and mystery. I want to accept it -- no, more than accept -- embrace it, run toward it, or at least not run from it and let it embrace me, as Pauline finally allows her most terrible fear to overtake her, only to find it is precisely what makes her most fully herself, most wonderfully able to serve others, most joyfully confident in a Power greater than any she could conjure or imagine, and which she now understands is indeed "terribly good."