By Ruth Lera
It can feel so dark where I live.
Of course, by this I mean both my inner and outer environments.
You all know what I mean. How dark we can feel inside sometimes, like no one will ever love us again.
How just the act of taking our own heads out from under the blanket can seem impossible, and how we can feel so sure that there is no viable choice for our life except to stay in our warm—yet lonely—beds, overflowing with heartache forever.
This is what the dark can feel like and we all know it.
The sun only rises at 10:30 in the morning on December 21st in my boreal forest neighborhood. We look out the window at the barely evening hour of 4:00pm and it is dark once again.
This is what it means to live north of 60, it means the light of summer and the dark of winter aren’t metaphorical, they are all too real.
Every winter someone I know goes down. Really down. It has even been me some years. The darkness of the outside world merges with our own darkness within, and when spring arrives we barely emerge, scarred and scared from the winter gloom.
And then there is spring break-up, the time when we see which couples didn’t make it through the season of cold and dark. The people who needed to pull away from being two and become one again, so they can find the light of their own souls, unhindered by the commitment they once made.
Summer Solstice is easy to celebrate. The sun is high in the sky, all night long, and the wildflowers are in bloom, and dancing all night long seems the perfect thing to do.
This seems like a time to rejoice, the light is here. It is strong and clear, embracing every moment night and day, but Summer Solstice also marks the end of the light, and the definite beginning of the darkness again.
Some of us choose not to shout out with joy on mid-summer’s eve.
I wonder, who is brave enough to celebrate the coming of the dark? Who can say, bring it on darkness, I know you will come anyways, so instead of running away from you I will choose to run into your arms, knowing full well that you will strip layers off me as I curl into your dark, bleak arms.
No one I know consciously runs to the darkness, and definitely I usually don’t. Instead I recoil from the pain and loneliness darkness can bring; even though I know that the black of winter brings me more home to myself, which is where I truly want to go—still I don’t go willingly.
At Summer Solstice my friends and I sulk a little, wishing we could hold the light a little longer, if not forever, wishing it didn’t have to leave us.
Winter Solstice is when we cheer.
We are almost there, we say to each other on the grey downtown streets when we meet, barely able to see each other under our woolly toques. We our halfway there, we state boldly, any day the light will come back.
We dance on Winter Solstice and light candles and stand by the raging bonfires trying to urge the lightness closer to us, creating our own light through fire, candles, hugs and love. The tears are right behind our eyes on Winter Solstice, tears of sweetness and hope, tears of knowing we have almost made it through the darkness, again.
The wisdom Winter Solstice offers us is that the dark is inevitable. It is going to come into our lives no matter what and after it leaves, it will come again.
Yes, the light is inevitable also, but it is the dark we try to avoid. This is what we train for in mindfulness meditation. We train for the dark. We see it all when we sit quietly with ourselves, watching our own breath. We see the happy and the sad and we don’t jump away: we sit and we notice it.
Lately, in my meditation practice when the dark comes, when the mean, scary thoughts of pain and trauma arise in my being, I bring them all the way through. Instead of pushing the dark down away from me, I let it rise up and travel all the way through my being so it can transmute to love.
This is what we can do with the seasons; let them travel through us instead of pushing our way through them.
The dark will come. We can bundle up nice and warm moving slowly through the icy air, knowing its impermanence makes it shine even more.
This year I will celebrate the darkest day when it arrives, and I will appreciate the opportunity winter has brought me. When summer comes I will also celebrate the longest day and the impending end of the light. I will urge myself to run with open arms into the embrace of darkness because I know it’s time here is limited, too, and that all it offers is love and light, even in the dark.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak