Light and Darkness

candle 2
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
(excerpted from “Winter-Time” by Robert Louis Stevenson)
Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.
(Junichiro Tanizaki)
Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man — it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars — pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.
(exerpted from chapter eight of “The Outermost House”, by Henry Beston)
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
(excerpted from The Sound of Silence, by Paul Simon)
Today is the day I will celebrate Yule, and my Winter Solstice. I have been thinking a great deal about the longer nights, the insomnia, the shadowy days, and the lack of the sun. Truth be told, I miss her light, her warmth, and on those days this month when she has shone her face and warmed me, I have made an extra effort to get outside and soak her in.  I am eager to turn that corner of the longest night and head back toward the light, to chase through the woods at sunset as she sets fire to the tops of the trees, and warms my skin! But I’d be remiss if I left it at that. Because I am also the girl who loves the darkness, and welcomes the night, even the insomnia. I find it is a gift, to steal an hour or three of shadowy silence for spilling ink and writing poetry, is one of the great pleasures in my life.
candle yin yang
Darkness intrigues me, calls to me, begs to be celebrated. I have felt this way since very early on in my adult journey into a new experience, a new identity and spirituality that was fully my own. I remember long ago reading a post on a blog by Poppy St. Vincent, about being a woman who in the spirit of Lilith, chases her own darkness… “Maybe sometimes she has children now but she has a life away from them as well. Maybe she loves but does not obey without question. Maybe she walks her own path, thinks her own thoughts; she has the distinct smell of trouble about her. Maybe she is so restless at night because she has such dreams of desire that they will not let her rest.” …it resonated with me so deeply, that I long ago wrote about it, and that call to leave the warmth of hearth and home for a while, and chase my own darkness down the shadowed paths under moonlight. It truly changed the way I identify myself.  I have learned to embrace the darkness in me, and yes, to revel in it. I am both Raven and Moon. My blood runs inky, and I seek out the nights, the shadows, the forest paths where I run with my Wolf. We explore that darkness together, and yes, these things add depth, poetry, adventure and a spiritual richness, a “religious emotion” as Beston says. I am deeply fed by this act of embracing the night, and the darkness that is an intrinsic part of who I am, and how I’m made.
candle snuff
I have been meditating today on this longest night, and on ways to celebrate it in my own way. I will, of course, attend a small Yule celebration, and with friends and like-minded acquaintances, I will join in the ritual, light candles, make music, and welcome the light in that circle. Today alone, as I have no other day this year, I wear about my neck a chain from which is suspended a small silver charm shaped like the sun — presented to me and to all in attendance at my first Yule ritual. It seems an appropriate reminder of the light that shines in even the most troubling times, and I need that perspective. My year has had its share of heartache, and even today, I am going through a sort of darkness that I do not relish, do not chase. I am comforted knowing that it will not always be so dark as it is now in that sense. I recall for myself in these ways the truth that light is coming.
Still, my desire is to embrace that light while also honoring the darkness… like a chunk of snowflake obsidian I carry in my pocket some days, light and dark in the same small space, both creating beauty. I will carry that stone with me tonight, and I will spend some time in the wee hours, reveling in the absence of light. I will turn off my electronics, my light bulbs, blow out my candles. I will breathe and be grateful for the shadows in my life that define beauty, and provide contrast to the brightness. I will relish the stillness, the sound of silence, the quiet of four in the morning — and after a while, I will light a solitary candle, and I will write. I will do what I was made to do, what is in my blood, and bones and DNA. I’ll spill ebony ink onto my pages, to remind me that darkness too, is truly my old friend.
Candle out