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An Ode to Darkness

I’ve been reveling in the darkness this year. Spending many of my evenings with the electric lights out, minus the twinkle lights on my Solstice tree, candlelight, or a fire warming the hearth.

This time of year is so tender and sacred.

Tender because the medicine of it can easily be overridden with movement, light, and doing.

Sacred because it is within this deep womb of darkness where so much spiritual wisdom resides.

It is in the darkness where we can be known.

It is in the darkness where we can see our most subtle truths. The distant twinkle of stars in our own night sky.

The darkness allows us to see parts of ourselves that have been forgotten, or ones we’ve never known. The gentle flickers who cannot compete with the brighter, bolder, well-known lights for our attention.

The darkness illuminates these delicate sparks within our soulscape that haven’t quite made it up to the forefront. The quiet shimmers that tenderly ask for attention. But we cannot see these sparks, shimmers, and delicate shine if we don’t intentionally go dark, away from the realm of light. Perdita Finn says, "In the light we think we understand everything, we are convinced we know everything, we feel in control and in charge. In the darkness we must surrender to mystery. This is where life always renews itself -- in the darkness of the dirt and the womb." In his book, "Waking Up to the Dark," Clark Strand writes, "Because we no longer honor the darkness, we have lost touch with the journey of the soul... What we do to our bodies with antibiotics, we do to consciousness with light. Our souls have become sterile. In killing the darkness, we have closed the channel that once gave human beings their principle contact with the world beyond... The person who chooses to turn off the lights and lie awake in darkness embraces the truth of a life before and beyond [our culture]." Wendell Berry says, "To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings."

In just a few days we will welcome back the light. On the other side of the Winter Solstice, we will honor the light’s return, and the ascent to summer will begin. Soon enough, the New Year’s resolutions and intentions will be igniting you forwards again, and everything will ramp up speed.

So let yourself have this moment of communion. Let yourself know the darkness, so that you, too, can be known by it.

Winter’s Cloak

by Joyce Rupp

This year I do not want

the dark to leave me.

I need its wrap

of silent stillness,

its cloak

of long lasting embrace.

Too much light

has pulled me away

from the chamber

of gestation.

Let the dawns

come late,

let the sunsets

arrive early,

let the evenings

extend themselves

while I lean into

the abyss of my being.

Let me lie in the cave

of my soul,

for too much light

blinds me,

steals the source

of revelation.

Let me seek solace

in the empty places

of winter’s passage,

those vast dark nights

that never fail to shelter me.


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