Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Light in Darkness

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Chinese Proverb

As the days darken down, I find myself in a transitional space. I have lived almost my entire life in northern regions, where a first hint of winter enters on the wind while fall is still in full swing, and darkness bleeds into daylight well before anyone is ready to face the inevitable reduction in exposure to the sun.

For me, this transition to a dimmed existence is deeply familiar, yet tinged with familiar comforts. My emergence into this bleak, wintry world is simultaneously colored by glimpses of extraordinary luminescence, made visible in contrast to darkness: the stark illumination of an icy moon and the miraculous, mirrored radiance from fields of snow; the warm glow of simple, brown-bag luminaria on a  dark path; the reflected glimmer of a Christmas tree in beloved ornaments; flickering candlelight highlighting family faces at my dinner table.

I grew up in a relatively small town, in a relatively simpler time, and experienced the freedoms (as well as the limitations) that existence offered.  One freedom was a less vigilant attitude about the movements of young girls in the waning hours of daylight. I remember walking home from a friend’s house or school in darkness, feeling covered by darkness in an empowering way, captivated by my own breath visible in the night, buoyed by the ambient brightness of snow blanketing roofs and yards, animated by cold and the brisk walking pace it encouraged.

As I age, the cold seems colder (although Bloomington is the most southerly home I have ever had), and the darkness often seems too dark, an inconvenience at best and a serious threat to harmony and mental health on the worst days.

This year, I’m making a winter resolution, to recall the feelings of aliveness and comfort that early dark and cold can spark, and to create light and warmth wherever and whenever I can for myself and those around me. I’m lighting the Christmas tree as long as possible, and this morning, I put fresh candles in the kitchen candleholders. I’m offering mugs of cocoa daily to my girls, topped with airy clouds of whipped cream, and planning frequent  evening baking.

May you surround yourself and yours with warmth and light to last into the now-unimaginable heat of summer.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. Your thoughtful piece arrived on the perfect day in Columbia, MO, Mary. We are blanketed in snow and driving conditions are slick. Many gatherings have been canceled today.

    Don't forget the marshmellows in the cocoa for Kate and Anna! ☺☺☺
    Love, Anne

  2. Thanks. I am going to make hot chocolate now.

  3. I love the memory of the way darkness can envelope in a truly empowering way. Thanks for this Mary. I'm ready to hunker down to feel the exquisite sweetness in the ways light and dark interact at this time of year. Cheers! Beth