Light, Darkness, Rest and the Solstice

The weather has been lovely and gloomy around here for the past 48 hours, with no end in sight until Tuesday. Low slung clouds spit rain that went from fat, warm drops to chilly mist and now cold little pellets that seem to find every crack in your clothing. Our windows are foggy. My feet are cold.

For the past three days I’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier: 10:30, then 10 and last night 9:30. For most of my adult life I’ve tried to fight the instinct to go to bed whenever night descended. In high school, I had AOL Chat to keep me awake. College, parties and papers. As an adult I just…stay up. Reading. Watching T.V. Clicking through many inane websites.

Friday, as I drove around doing some errands, I noted how dark it was. Fog, something rare in Central Texas, had rolled in during the afternoon.  A thin wool shrouded the roads and trees. As I drove I could only see to the next stoplight.

My first instinct when C and I got home from picking J up was to flip on the holiday lights and lamps. Suddenly the dark rooms emitted a soft, yellow glow. Even though I love the gloom, the glow is still comforting in the encroaching darkness.

As beautiful as I find the lights, I wonder if they serve to separate me (us?) from some of the lessons (? best word I could come up with) of the season. I notice that I haven’t spent a lot of time (any) in the early twilight, the blue-black winter midnight or the late-coming dawn.

In the last post I said that I felt like this is a season of ‘advent’ for me. I don’t mean that in the Christian context of Advent, but rather a time where the spirit of waiting is present. And it is–waiting for the winter solstice, for the sun to push through into gradually lengthening days. Waiting for winter’s full grip to be felt in January and February, where even down here we get days of ice and snow. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

There’s an essential womb-i-ness to this time of year. It’s dark. Our natural instinct is to rest, to sleep, to eat stews and soups and cover ourselves with blankets. I feel, in a way, that the lights of the season–not only the lights on the trees, but also the glare of the constant advertising, sound, bustle–serve to separate us from what should be a time of rest.

There is a need to light the candles during the winter darkness. It reminds us that the sun and warmth are coming again; flame is a symbol of growth, inspiration and hope. Lighting the candles and lights reminds me of Brighid and Hestia, of my ancestors, and yes, of Jesus. It links us in a spirit of waiting and watching for the coming sun.

This is no new or profound thought, but one that has stuck with me for the past few days: to appreciate the coming son (myth)/sun (star), I need to spend some of the interim advent time in darkness. In rest, sleep, getting to know my shadow, perhaps even being so literal as to sit in a dark room. A quiet time to say more than just a brief ‘hello’ to the gods, goddesses and spirits. To grow aware of what the bustle of life obfuscates. And to fully appreciate the simple strike of a match.

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