It is clear to me that I have not been lighting enough candles.
These are some of the darkest days of the year, and I live in one of the darkest corners of the globe, the Pacific Northwest. Lately it seems that I find myself closing the blinds in my house just minutes after I have opened them. And on some days, the light at noon seems barely brighter than that at dusk.
It’s so easy to let myself become shrouded in this blanket of darkness.
I am a native Northwesterner. I am more comfortable with this darkness than I am with non-stop sunshine and light. That said, balance is good. I get outside regularly, even in the cold and rain. Not just outside running errands in and out of the grey and bleak strip malls of suburbia, but really outside. To move and breathe in the woods, or near the water. Nature teaches me a lot about life. About the ebb and flow of light and dark, about the importance of balancing growth and rest. To know when to let go, and when it’s right to hang on for dear life. Sometimes I wonder if the trees feel sad at the lack of light in these dark days of winter. Instead, I imagine they are grateful for the rest.
Until recently, whenever I awoke in the middle of the night, unable to sleep with a restless mind, I would simply close my eyes again, deepen my breath and watch my breath begin to take me out of my “monkey mind” and back into peace. I wouldn’t always fall right back asleep, but there was stillness, a resting place. Now, my Kindle sits at the ready on my nightstand. If sleep eludes me at 3:00 AM, I often roll over and grab my tablet, turn on it’s bright display and check Facebook or Twitter to see if anyone else is up with me. With me, but not really with me. Virtual company. I need to stop doing that. I need to learn again to rest within that darkness, that stillness. To simply be.
I need to light more candles. I need to build a fire in the fireplace and feel the warm of it’s flames. I need to balance the darkness with light.
My favorite people on this earth are those who are comfortable with their own darkness. We share our shadow stories and make each other lighter in the process. These people are like stunning works of art, of contrast and light, of joy and sorrow. It’s important to have people in my life who bring light to it, but not in an artificial, “rah-rah-cheerleader” type of way, parroting back mindless platitudes that they got off a Facebook page. Those folks are as harsh and annoying as the overhead fluorescent lights in an office building. Flat and artificial. The people who bring light into my life are simply those who give me hope. Those who will sit with me in the silent darkness and whose mere presence brings comfort and light. I need to spend time with these people, not to wallow deeper into the dark, but to know that none of us are alone, even when the light is dim.
I will light more candles.
And I will remember the people I miss. The ones I am separated from either by death or circumstance. I will take time to miss them and perhaps even cry. In those tears, I will honor their presence in my life and see the flame of the candle as a symbol of the light they brought to it.
“Remember,” the Irish peasants say, “that the darkest hour of all is the hour before day.”
The darkest days are still ahead of us. What will you do? Will you succumb to the artificially lit frenzy that is part of our consumerist gospel? Shop online in the middle of the night when you need rest? Or will you shroud yourself in the darkness and withdraw from the light completely? Retreat from what little light you have like a recluse?
Me, I will light more candles.
Balancing darkness with light.