December 14, 2010 § 3 Comments
This year I have been big on the solstice. December 21st. I think the solstice for our generation is what Thanksgiving used to be before Martha Stewart infused it with the essence of perfection. (Brined turkeys! Roasted chestnut and dried cranberry stuffing! Pomegranate cocktails!) There is something about the light in the middle of all this darkness that offers a refuge of sorts, a comfort. Darkness has always frightened me, both in the literal and figurative sense. Emotionally, it feels like an abyss. Literally, I worry about raccoons jumping out at me, muggers with knives around the corner. I worry about tripping and falling.
A few days ago I wrote about how hard it is for me to stay present lately. In the past ten weeks I have taken three classes, planned three birthday parties, and prepared for three holidays. There were travel arrangements to make, cakes to bake, presents to buy. Right now I am staring down a stack of Christmas cards and I haven’t even finished thank-you notes from October yet … There have been articles to write and playdates to keep and parent meetings at school. There has been too much motion and too many to-dos. Yesterday, I went for a run just after four pm and was struck by the fact that I was running into the sunset. When did this happen? When did the days become so truncated? By the time I came home, my face numb and my breath steaming in front of me, night was falling hard and fast. Something inside me that has been circling for months was falling hard and fast too. Okay, I thought. I give up. I surrender. I was glad for the night, for the early dark. All I wanted to do was to stay inside our cozy house and eat the tortilla soup I made that afternoon. I wanted to sleep for a long, long time.
All of a sudden, the darkness seemed good. I welcomed it. There have been so many thoughts that I haven’t been able to address in these busy days, so many things that have come up that I have brushed off like raindrops. But instead of leaving, they have circled like a back of vultures, incessantly calling to me, waiting for me to finally slow down. As I walked up the hill to my house after my run, I realized that I was ready. I was ready to turn inward, to attend to what needed mending. Nothing bad has happened to me. Instead, I marvel at how lucky I am to have avoided tragedy so far in my life. I am so very lucky. But sometimes, even for the lucky ones, a bit of healing needs to happen.
I thought of all that happens in the darkness. The stars come out and the moon shines brightly. Bread rises. Our cells regenerate. We dream. Children grow. The planet completes its revolution. Bears hibernate. We whisper secrets we would never have the courage to share in the daylight. When I lived in San Diego, the light there was often too much for me. I felt overexposed like a photograph. Now, with these short days, I can hide and regenerate like a starfish. I can roast vegetables and sit by the warm oven, building Lego machines while roots soften and sweeten. There is time now to be still.
After my run I thought about how I crave the light. How I celebrate it. What if, I thought, I celebrate the darkness this year instead of the light. What if this year, I welcomed the night. After all, without it, the candles aren’t even visible. And then I pushed that thought back out. Nah. I feel about the darkness the way Lucy feels about Snoopy’s kisses. BLEEECCCHHH.
Today I saw a comment posted by Katrina Kenison. “And how lovely the darkness is,” she wrote, “when we surrender ourselves to it.” Surrender. The magic word. Sharon Gannon writes that “Magic is a change in perception.” My magic is a change from motion to stillness, from fear to love, from craving the light to embracing the darkness. I was just listening to George Winston’s December. It reminds me of college, of studying in the Willard Straight Music Library. It is beautiful because of its darkness, because of its minor notes. And what is darkness if not the minor notes, the transition between yoga poses, the stillness between the motion, the dreaming to the doing. I’m still looking forward to the solstice this year. Only this time, I’ll be looking behind the light. I’ll be giving thanks to what makes the candles shine so brightly.