I wonder what the ancients would think of our need to shine light in all corners. I am not speaking metaphorically here. Most of us in this country can flip a switch and light their house, turn an ignition key and light the road with their car headlights, use the flashlight app on their phone when they forget to bring a flashlight. How far we have come since the only way to banish darkness was with fire. When you view pictures of the earth from near space, the lights in all the developed areas are visible, that’s how much artificial light has crept into the darkness, and I wonder how that interferes with our need for the dark.
There is a certain loss of adherence with the natural rhythms of our earth when we have so much control over light. Yet we cannot control the sun and our orbit around it–these patterns exist beyond human influence. The warmth of the sun that helps grow the food we consume prods harvesters into high gear in late summer and early autumn. The warming of the earth that occurs in springtime encourages farmers and gardeners to return to their fields to till the soil and plant their new crops or flowers. The heat of the summer finds us basking in the sunlight and escaping the heat in cool water, or if we farm, tending our plots to encourage a bountiful crop. But what about this time of year – the bleak midwinter – when, for Northerners, the ground is frozen, many trees are bare and the days are short. Do we light up our homes and streets and yards, craving more light than nature provides, or do we relish in the shift of season when the balance between light and dark shifts?
The light takes on a softness in the northwest during December. It makes trees and mountains glow and casts long shadows. I appreciate that in my neighborhood there are few street lamps to obscure the beauty of this shifting light. I relish walking the trail in the late afternoon as the sun is low in the sky and the moon might be rising. I will also admit that sometimes I wish I could hibernate like other animals. How wonderful it might feel to snuggle in for a long nap and follow the ancient body’s need during the darkest time of the year. Much of nature remains dormant, resting and storing up energy for the rebirth and growth that come as the sunlight increases.
The winter is begging me to rest, to slumber, to enjoy family and food and warm fires. What happens when we follow these ancient rhythms and truly rest? For me, the rare times that it happens, I may find time to explore the dark corners that exist in my own self. I am able to shine a light on areas that are neglected. When I can rest I am able to face challenges with renewed spirit, I can forge new habits, I can nurture creativity within myself. I can rekindle an inner light that allows me to be an effective and positive influence in my world.
What waits for you in the darkness of this season if you make time for it? Is there something deep inside waiting to be born as the light returns? If there is, may it be nurtured in the dark, ready to emerge when the balance of light and dark shifts.