Dark Into Light

I have always loved this time of year, when fall turns into winter. The light lessens and nature’s surface goes dormant, yet life and promise teem below and out of sight. It seems that nothing’s happening, but all the while there’s productive churn from the necessary stillness.

At least that’s what I tell my procrastinating self, especially when I’m tortured with writing. It’s what I convey to clients who feel hopelessly stuck and spend so much energy chastising themselves. Dormancy is vital to growth. Out of darkness comes the light.

The meaning and metaphor of solstice are even more profound this year. The pandemic has been unfathomably brutal for so many, and will likely get worse before it gets better. The mind-boggling cruelty and corruption of Trump and his enablers has pummeled us into exhaustion. And that’s on top of the usual suspects—the failure to reckon with our original sin of slavery, dire and growing inequality, a warming planet. The demons of our nature too often appear to have the upper hand over the better angels.

Yet even in these broken times there are fragments of hope. The New York Times has been running answers to “What Was Good About 2020?”: A pared-down wedding. Perspective. Realizing we are all connected. Absolutely nothing. Saving money on gas, dry cleaning, and haircuts. And my favorite: seeing into one’s colleagues’ apartments during Zoom meetings.

Many people I know have noted how the forced disruption has also eliminated much of the frenzy and artifice life demanded before. Acts of kindness and compassion abound. One of my friends speculated that perhaps the murder of George Floyd sparked a sustained uprising unlike other murders of Black men and boys before him because more White people, experiencing their own hitherto unknown hardship and loss, could at last empathize. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch spinning darkness into light, but there’s something to it.

And now there is a vaccine, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in January 20. There are dark times ahead, but Spring is coming.

A Glint of Light in the Darkness

Christmas balls hanging from treesRecently I had to be somewhere very early in the morning. Since I am not fit for human company without my daily walk and latte, I set out on foot before the pitch-black December sky had begun to gray around the edges.

My route took me through a neighborhood where all the households join together during the holidays to hang enormous shiny balls from the trees lining both sides of the street. I could see nothing, except for slivers of silver on each orb, reflecting the dim light from the lone street lamp at the end of the street. I continued on to my favorite café, its bright interior and friendly staff another beacon piercing the dark.

Fortified by my latte and the subtly glowing branches, I headed home to join the early stream of rush hour traffic.

I needed to be out and about before dawn to take my new friend Marcy to chemotherapy. Marcy was given a diagnosis of Stage 4 ovarian cancer and six months to live. That was four and a half years ago, time she has spent traveling all over the country seeking out cutting-edge treatment and clinical trials. These efforts have kept death at bay, but now the cancer is starting to break through even in the midst of grueling regimens.

These are dark times, for Marcy and for a world riddled with problems of such magnitude that sometimes the only way to cope is to withdraw. The season of solstice reflects this. Light is in short supply, and so, at times, is hope. The urge to pull inward is strong.

Yet even though Marcy may be running out of options, her spirit and will to live are strong. So it is in the world as well–joy and kindness abound, relieving despair. As we pass through the darkest time of the year, there are always shimmers of light.