By Deb Avery
At this time of the year the darkness closes in early and the cold winds blow.
Things can seem pretty bleak to those who only glimpse the surface of reality. But underneath the cold ground and deep within the forests, streams and gardens, there is a lot of internal workings going on. It may seem that death and darkness prevail, but actually preparations are in full swing.
There is a lot of nourishing, resting and rejuvenation in progress. And soon the darkness will begin to lift, almost imperceptibly at first, mere seconds a day, gradually increasing to minutes and eventually hours in the coming months.
After many years of living in the deep South, I know the routine intimately. There are no greetings of “Blessed Yule” or “Happy Solstice.” There is not even an uttering of “Happy Holidays” to those of differing beliefs. “Merry Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” permeates the greetings and the atmosphere. Nativity scenes and religious services are numerous and the only community activities available.
This year, with all the injustices, suffering, inequality and racism running rampant, it seemed a little darker than some years past. I was feeling a little down and quite frankly—a little overwhelmed. Similar to a mouse in a room full of cats. After all, walking a different path than 99.99% of everyone else in a close, small, rural town can be a little trying and requires a lot of patience, understanding and compassion. As with everyone else on the planet, some days this is easier for me than others.
Then, as often happens when we need it the most, a ray of light broke through the cold, dark night and brought with it a warmth to my heart and a calmness and levity to my weary mind. Later on, this small ray of light was followed by an intense beam of brightness.
But the ray came first.
This ray of light that broke through and brought a warmth to my heart and put a huge smile on face, happened on my way back from the grocery store a couple of nights ago. After going through the store and hearing “Merry Christmas” from a lot of those around me, I was feeling a little out of sorts. How wonderful it would be to hear, “Have a blessed Yule” or even a “Happy Holidays.” One would think this kind of thing wouldn’t bother me after all these years of living in the Bible Belt, but like I said, this year, it was kind like the proverbial straw analogy. Let’s just say, I highly empathized with that camel.
Getting back to the car with my few groceries, I decided to take an alternate route home. I thought seeing some different decorations and a change of scenery might help lighten my mood.
I had not gone a mile when I almost stopped my car right in the middle of the road. I did slow to a crawl. For there, in two huge front windows, were two perfect, multicolored, twinkling pentacles within a protective circle. These type things are just not seen in this part of the country. My wondering eyes misted and a smile spread on my face. Although I do not label myself with any certain sect or creed, my little Celtic, pagan heart felt light.
It didn’t take long for the smile to give way to laughter. For although they were perfect in form and shape, I realized that these must be the homeowner’s representations of the Star of Bethlehem. That had to be the explanation, didn’t it? Could it be possible that Wiccans or persons of the Old Religion inhabited this modest brick home in rural Alabama? Well, while not outside the realm of possibility, knowing the possible fallout they would face, I somehow highly doubted this. No, it was much more likely that it was their version of the star that marked the place where Jesus was born.
Still, it was a much needed boost to my mood and morale. And I felt grateful, warm and fuzzy inside for the reminder from the Universe that I was not alone in this world. In a much more lighthearted mood, I continued my journey home.
But the brightest flash was yet to come.
My state and especially my county is a Trump and Roy Moore supporter. The political race between Moore and Doug Jones seemed crystal clear to some of us. It was a difference between equality, decency and civil rights and a return to the darker times of a bygone era where hostility to differences and inequality was mainstream.
As I sat watching the returns come in for our next senator here in Alabama on the night of December 12th, I’ll have to admit that I had accepted that Moore (despite his darkness) would still be elected to that position. There seemed to be so much support for him and his narrow, hate-filled views.
However, after an hour of following the returns, my sadness and feelings of hopelessness turned into joy and gratitude as I saw just how close this race was going to be. Maybe there was more love than hate out there after all. Then, in the last 30 minutes, a feeling of utter relief washed through me.
Despite all the odds, despite the fact that a Democrat, progressive or liberal (no matter how conservative they might be) had not held this position in a quarter of a century, I watched my state choose decency, love and hope as they voted in Doug Jones, a Democrat, (and conservative liberal), as our next senator.
I had to remind myself to take deep breaths as my laptop screen became blurry from the tears that filled my eyes.
BOOM! Starbursts lit up the dark, cold night! Solstice, (the return of the light), illuminated in hope and brightness, came early to Dixie this year.
May the illumination continue for us all in the days and months ahead.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule and Happy Solstice to everyone!
Editor: Dana Gornall
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