Appreciating the Darkness (Or Happy Holidays!)

I tend to be much more reflective during this time of the waning sun.

I journal, read through old journals, sort through old photos, paint, meditate, revisit favorite well-worn books, think about what I want to experience in the new year and so on.

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The moon from my front porch

In other words, I go deep – reminiscing, ruminating, then reformulating how I want to spend my time on this earth, in this body.

It’s part of living in the rhythm of the seasons, keeping in step with the encroaching darkness.

How do you keep in step with the rhythm of the seasons?

Back on Halloween, my friends and I came together to honor Death, the dead and the season of dying and letting go. We can’t hide from Death, so we might as well face it together, with wine and good food, sharing by candlelight and even a little shouting under the moon.

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My dining room on Halloween

Letting go was more than just a metaphor for me this Fall, as it was the time I had to let my daughter move into young adulthood and I adjusted to a newly empty nest. It was also when I accompanied a dear friend as she transitioned into hospice care.

Face it – we have no choice but to let go  – of youth, health, loved ones, certain ideas about ourselves and what we’re here to do, rigid plans – all of it has to go sooner or later.

Ashes to ashes and so on.

From a Halloween Puppet Festival
From a Halloween Puppet Festival

Halloween confronts death, and the Fall season with its falling leaves reminds us to let go of whatever is dying in our lives.

Then November comes, Thanksgiving in the USA, and we express our gratitude for whatever has remained.

This turkey is happy to be alive and on my car.
Grateful turkey

I let go as my daughter moved into her next stage of life and then on Thanksgiving she and I came together and celebrated our familiar, yet evolving relationship with the familiar foods and rituals of Thanksgivings past. It was nice.

Now Winter Solstice is approaching. The Holiday Season. The days are getting so dark and we are moving so far from the sun we fear we may never see it again.

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This darkness drives us a little mad, and many start to maniacally shop, throw holiday parties and do all they can to be merry, merry, merry.

Some, like me, settle into the darkness, appreciating how snow silences the outdoors, how the quiet turns me inward until I find that the whole universe is inside of myself – the history of the world lies in wait to be found deep inside of me.

Oh, I like to make a little merry too. I go to some parties. I buy gifts. I sing loud in the car to Elvis’ Merry Christmas, Baby. I put up a big, fat Frasier Fir and fill it with lights and beads. I get out the ornaments made by my daughter, from my own childhood, and from my grandmother’s tree. I bake gingerbread cake.

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I enjoy all of that. I like to put some light and sparkle into the darkness, and make it cozy with warm smells and familiar music.

But I also enjoy making plenty of time to settle into the darkness. Reminiscing, ruminating,  and reformulating. Going down deep where I can feel the Divine and appreciate that the Sun is always there, even when we can’t see it.

My daughter will move away and still be my daughter. My friend will leave her body and still be my friend. I know these things by going deep into the darkness where true faith, peace and calm are found.

The sun will take command of the sky again soon, but in the meantime, let’s appreciate the darkness and all that we can find there.

How do you appreciate this time of darkness?

20 thoughts on “Appreciating the Darkness (Or Happy Holidays!)

  1. Thanks again, Carolyn, for your wise words.

    I curl in, paint tiny landscapes, and am returning to the imaginative landscape of my childhood to write a second novel about a young woman finding ancient history, forbidden love and dangerous letters in the cracks of her suburban neighborhood…

  2. We embrace this time of year! I love winter time, with the snow and the twinkling lights! Tis’ the season for family and friends and time spent with loved ones. We are Christians so this is on of my favourite seasons and times the entire year. We gather in the kitchens of loved ones laughing and sharing. No darkness here.. only light!!

    1. I love this time of year too, but wow, no darkness by you at all? Christian traditions of Advent are based on the idea of waiting in the darkness for the light of Jesus to come. Traditionally, it is a shared time of acknowledging we are the “weary world” of traditional carols – we feel the communal sorrows of humanity so to speak, then rejoice on Christmas Eve when the angels sing and Jesus is born. In this season of darkness (as I said in another comment – it literally gets dark around 4:00 pm where I live) there is a faith I find particularly beautiful – this faith that God will restore the light. We can rest in the darkness, and know that God is there.

  3. Having lived in the southern U.S. my entire life, I can’t say the winter season has ever felt like a dark time. We rarely have snow but when we do it’s joyous and fun, providing there isn’t ice involved. I love the changing seasons and embrace winter as a nice break from the humid weather we normally endure here in the south. The summer is when I retreat indoors.

    1. Here in the Northern U.S., winter doesn’t only feel dark – it is dark – starting at around 4:00 pm now which gives a very different rhythm to the day than when sunset is at 9:00 pm in the summer. I’m interested in the regional seasonal differences in regards to holidays, and rhythms of living. I know that most U.S. Christian holiday traditions come from Rome, Germany, England which match pretty well with where I live: Advent as a time of waiting in the dark for the light to come, for example. I know someone here from Argentina who misses the summer Christmas partying and barbeques of her homeland. So interesting to me!

    1. Thank you, Nicole! I think the seasons and holidays are rich with metaphors that can teach us so much about creation and the Divine.

  4. I like the winter holiday’s but not the weather that comes with it! I have a hard time with it being cold and dreary. I like the way you look at things and reminds me to stop and reminisce!

    1. I hope this post helps with the winter dreariness, at least a little. Seasonal depression due to limited sunlight is a biological fact for some. February’s piles of dirty snow is what gets to me.

  5. Taking the time to reflect, as you have, is so important and an area of my life where I can improve upon. I don’t typically like winter and the longer times of darkness and cold and find it very much affects my mood. I hope to spend a little more time using your example and reflecting to help me feel more grateful and happy.

    1. I hope it’s helpful, Laura. Seasonal mood issues are a real thing – we need the Sun- but there are ways of appreciating the darkness too.

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