Embracing Darkness

It’s November now, and I’m afraid of the oncoming winter and the speed at which it descends.

I’m afraid of the way darkness begins to swallow my day at both ends. Every week we lose about eighteen minutes of daylight, nine in the morning, nine in the evening, until those minutes add up to hours, and evening isn’t evening anymore–it’s night.

I’m afraid of the way rain descends like a blanket over the remaining daylight hours. When it arrives, it seems it will never leave. I wake to the sound of rain in darkness. Hours later, after tea and breakfast, I peer through the window, trying to assess the shape and force of the rain.

I am afraid of the feeling I get, a tension that sits between stomach and ribs, when I run from my house to my car, my head bent to keep from getting wet, and then bent all day in my windowless office, down, down, always looking down. I leave work in darkness, arrive to darkness, and all that awaits me is a cold house, a tired wife, and a set of tasks to be done before bedtime. That tension beneath my ribs grows and takes over my body until I am nothing but sinew and fatigue.

I am afraid of the television, afraid that it will take over my house like a monster.

I am afraid of the piles of clutter in my house, because now there is no sunny, open yard to escape to.

I am afraid of my nearly 2-year-old son, afraid that his climbing, inquisitive, joyous spirit cannot be contained indoors.

I’m afraid of the noise, the epic screeching noise of cooped-up kids in my very small home.

I’m afraid of the Christmas season, of all the projects I take on and never complete, of obligations I’ll perceive but never fulfill.

Photo by C.S. Berney

I remind myself that winter is a season. Seasons pass. More importantly, each one has its purpose, a goal it wants to involve you in, a prescription for your personal growth.

Spring: Renew.

Summer: Play.

Fall: Gather.

Winter: Look inward.

Earlier this week, I drove alongside the bay at high tide and thought about how the Pacific Northwest, now more than ever, feels like home. It was a balmy morning. I had awoken to the hammer of rain, but by the time I left the house, there were cloud breaks. The world was wet and the sky was dynamic—storm clouds and patches of blue. The kids and I walked the four blocks to Smoke’s school and it was a world of giant puddles and dead worms and, even better: a giant red toadstool that seems to double in size every day.

toadie

I thought about how darkness can be kind, like a womb, how it can push me deeper into myself, reengage me in the creative work of knowing my own soul.

Winter, I am sorry, but you are harder to love than summer with its endless twilight and warm lakes. You are harder to love than green spring and crisp fall. You are just plain hard to love, but I will try.

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20 comments

    1. I love it too. The one I mentioned in the post mysteriously disappeared overnight. I was so disappointed. But I’ve got this photo of last year’s toadstool as a consolation.

  1. I live in Northern California and grew up in Canada. The weather here is incredible but I do miss the changing seasons. I love how you have characterized them here. I need to start meditating more and go within this winter 🙂

    1. I’m sure my Pacific NW winters are nothing compared to a Canadian winter. I grew up near Boston, and there’s just a little more light there through the winter. The dreariness is what gets me here.

  2. I really appreciate that you conclude with a commitment to try to love winter rather than a commitment that you’re really going to love winter this year. Sometimes in the dark season, trying is the best I can do. 🙂

  3. I hear you. I like to go to megamarts this time of year. THey are social and brightly light and contain millions of possibilities. I would imagine they’d be good places for the kids to get some jogging time. Maybe tear up the shopping list and have them race scavenger-hunt style.

  4. I too never really look forward to the dark season-primarily because of the cold weather (although our version of cold in California is very much a matter of perspective) – and also, I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits- slow down, go in, go deep, hibernate, percolate, gestate – and how that’s an essential part of the cycles too… rather than beating myself up for naturally coming into stillness. Just giving words to that now helped me name why I’ve been feeling so gloomy. Thank you.

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