Darkness and Light

A friend sent me a note last week in which she mentioned that she had put up a few holiday lights to “ward off the dark” at this time of year. That got me thinking about the winter months and how we react to the shorter days and the darker nights. I continue to be startled by how quickly it gets dark each day and wonder where the time has gone.

I love all the sparkle and shine of lights at this time of year, huge menorahs, life-sized exhibits of Santa and his reindeer, candles in windows and lights that blink in rainbow colors. I stare with the delight of a five-year-old at buildings outlined in strings of white lights, and as the cold creeps through my layers, I look forward to the sweet heat of hot chocolate (or an eggnog with brandy).

In by gone days, our ancestors retreated into the shelter of their homes to share food and stories around the heat and light of their fires. Families gathered together as they worked on projects, telling stories that were the bedrock of their culture. Tales of heroes and the monsters they vanquished whether mystical or real. Through their stories, they imparted their values and the lessons of life.

The darkness of winter is a time I reflect upon days gone by and explore the snips of memories my brain releases into my consciousness. I hear within my mind the sounds of my youth as our extended family came together for celebrations. The trash-talk of good-natured teasing, the clatter of dishes, the roar of winners at card and board games, and the clunk of car doors as family and friends departed.

I dissect my fears back then as if they were the frogs of a biology lab smelling of formaldehyde held in place with stainless steel pins. They were the simple fears of a child. Now I worry about the state of world peace, our environment, the latest behavior of our ego-driven and emotionally stunted leaders and the actions of old white men trying to hang onto power and wealth with the clawed hands of the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

The teachings of Buddha remind me that there is suffering in life, just as there is joy, and the challenge is to relate to it, rather than from it. To walk the middle path between extremes is my challenge. I reflect on the past year, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, and what remains a mystery to me. I wonder what I’ve neglected to see or be aware of in my efforts to be mindful, knowing that I’m still learning, stumbling along on my path. I allow myself the incompetence of a learner.

In the light of the full moon, I ponder what will appear and unfold in the days and months to come, with a sense of curiosity, rather than anxiety. I think about setting new goals and intentions, but don’t feel ready to do so for some reason. It feels as if there is more reflection, more quiet study, more internal dialogue and examination I need to be conduct.

Amidst all the sparkle of winter lights, I ponder. What legacy is beginning to form? (Or is there a legacy?) What synchronicities will appear? Will I notice them, see the patterns that are beginning to form? What gifts and everyday miracles will be revealed? Will I remember to be grateful? What awe inspiring visions will Mother Nature and the Universe provide? Will I pause long enough each day to breathe in the beauty that surrounds me? What intention and attention do I need to put in place to guide my actions and awareness?

In the night I wonder what I need to release into the darkness, to free myself from a burden of my own making. What do I need to create in the light of the day or in the illumination of lights at night? What does my spirit call for and am I still enough to hear the whispers? Am I confronting my fears or retreating into the stories that surround them?

What memories, dreams, wishes, and fears come to you in the darkness of the winter months among the illumination of fires, sparkling strings of lights, and candles? What have you learned this year? How can you focus on bringing people together, rather than creating or supporting divisions and suspicion?

I realize that I am posing a lot of questions, but then I’m writing this at 3:00 a.m. I woke up with such a strong vision of lights within the blackness of night, that I got up and began to write. Normally, I would roll over and promise myself I will remember it in the morning. Something called to me to get out of bed, to stare out my window into the darkness, aware of my reflection in the dim glow of my desk lamp.

Perhaps it is the whispers of my soul, or the memories of a less complex world that pulled me out of a warm bed to my journal. Maybe it is an opportunity to explore the darkness and appreciate what it affords me, a time to turn inward and explore my own stories of heroines and vanquished monsters.