Sunday night we were reminded that the longest night of the year is coming. In less than two weeks now. Of all the 365/366 nights of the year, it is the longest. Shortest day. Longest night. Winter Solstice. However you put it, that’s a lot of darkness.
Just thinking about the other side of that night causes me anxiety. The days will, slowly at first, begin to be longer and longer. Until we are right back where we started from. Light all the way up to bedtime. And nowhere to hide.
Even though it took some adjusting, and I have struggled with all this darkness, I confess it suits me this year. I appreciate the cloak of protection and privacy it offers. The darkness allows me to hide–from the reality that will be all too plain to see in the glaring brightness of spring and summer.
The flat-out truth? It’s okay to be sad in the dark. But in the light we must put on a happy face. Light just seems to call for it, doesn’t it?
And I just can’t. I have tried and I have my good moments, but the truth is I like the darkness and the cold that allows me to stay in my home, that doesn’t demand activity and plan-making. I like having fewer hours in the day to stare out at the already bare trees and changing leaves and remember where we were a year ago. So full of hope that Mama was going to get better. She called me just about a year ago, celebrating that the blood thinner shots were being taken off her regimen. If only they hadn’t been…..
So the dark lets me think about the what if’s and the what was’es all by myself. The dark draws all but me to their beds a little earlier, and Miss Sophie the pup and I sit and let the thoughts and memories and laughter and tears flow. She is a polite young lady. She might think I’m crazy–sometimes the way she cocks her head would indicate so–but she would never, ever put it into words. Or tell my secrets. I’m thankful for that.
I used to be afraid of the dark. Growing up at Blackberry Flats, I begged not to be the one to feed the cats in the winter. That trek from the back door out to Daddy’s building was never longer than it was on those pitch black nights. Certain there was something out there that would get me, I would walk quickly and stealthily, hoping not to alert the evil ones to my presence. And then I’d turn tail and run as fast as I could after emptying the dish. Sharing a room with Sister all those years was a challenge as well. She couldn’t sleep with a light on and again, I was afraid of the dark. I don’t know what I was afraid of indoors, but I liked to fall asleep while Mama and Daddy were still up and the light from the hall made an interesting shape on our bedroom floor as it peeked through our cracked open door.
Light and dark. Neither holds any real powers of protection or lacks them either. They just are what they are. And I’ve learned all too well that what can break you and tear your world apart is just as present in the light as it was in the dark.
And in the moment I fully realized that, the darkness became my friend.
Tonight as I drove our Princess home after her activities, I felt embraced by the darkness. Enveloped. Comforted. I could cry my eyes out and no one would know. It would be okay. Or I could smile and remember and that would be okay too. I felt safe in the dark. Oh how ten-year-old Tara would open her eyes in wonder at that and put her hands on her hip and shake her head, saying, “Unh uh, that’s not me. No way!” And yet it is. Our journeys and where they take us on the road of life tend to change us in ways we never expected. We embrace what we once rejected, we love whom we once couldn’t see, and we walk a little slower as the path already traveled gets longer and longer.
As safe as I felt on the trip home tonight, I was still glad to see the lights shining gently through the dark. I do love it when folks decorate with lights outside for all to enjoy. There is one particular house that always fills my heart with joy at their gift of whimsy year-round. But at Christmas they really do go all out. I stopped tonight to appreciate the warmth from their lights that had nothing to do with changing the numbers from the 44 degrees that was registered on my dash. The warmth they gave off registered in my heart. The little twinkling lights were beacons of hope, just as the Light that guided the shepherds and the Wise Men and Goodness only knows who else must have been for them over 2000 years ago. A Beacon of Hope. I love that it is on a little back road, way off the main drag. A little harder to find, but there for those who do cross its path. And open their eyes. Much like Hope itself.
Hope is good, especially in the darkness. And maybe, just maybe, that is another reason I love the darkness right now. It makes the Light, the Hope, a lot easier to discern. When it is dark and broken and cold, the Light and the Hope are more easily seen with our eyes and our hearts because of the beautiful contrast. And with the journey of the past two years, the past year, the past month, I need to see Hope and feel the comfort and peace that comes with seeing it, now more than ever before.
Embracing the darkness and finding comfort, love to all. A good night. And Goodnight.