Embracing the season of darkness

I am embracing the darkness and the stillness, just as it is embracing me.

It is nighttime in December. I step outside and let the darkness enfold me. I look to the sky filled with pinpricks of light and feel the pull of the moon, sense the energy of the stars. I wonder at the patterns and stories of the constellations – Cassiopeia, Taurus, the Pleiades. My heart sings at the brilliance of my cosmic kin – these stars and planets, moons and meteors, dancing in the dark. Walking to the fire circle, I listen for my coyote brothers. Crickets chirp slowly in the cool night air. Something shuffles through the crunchy leaves nearby.

I love being outdoors at night in the winter. No mosquitoes buzz in my ears and summer’s orb-weaving spiders, whose webs always wrapped around my face, are long gone. It is cold and crisp, and even though sound seems to travel so much farther, when it is quiet, it is really hushed. There is no campfire tonight. A drought has instigated a fire ban – the result of a too-dry summer and much drier autumn. But, here in the darkness peace settles in my soul. I sit for a long while and watch the stars and planets change positions in the night sky. A deep appreciation for a universe greater than our human minds can comprehend washes through me. I am grateful to be here now, letting the darkness hold me.

Even in the daytime there is darkness here. Our yard, surrounded by pine trees, is half in shadow all day long in winter. The southern end is cool and growing moss. The pollinator gardens are resting, holding space for the seeds left after summer blooms have faded away. Only a few bees buzz. Most of the insects are hidden deep within stems and under mulch, as pupae or in some other form, resting in their own darkness.

The winter Solstice is approaching, and to honor this time it is important for me to be with the darkness of these December nights and to sit in stillness with the trees and rocks during the day. The energy of the trees is in their roots now, underground. This is a time for resting, for gathering nourishment, for turning inward, for journeying into the darkest underworld, and settling in for winter.

Like the trees, I am spending time in the underworld, nestled in blankets with a hot cup of tea in my hand and my journals on my lap. I am making herbal tinctures, syrups, and teas for winter nourishment. I am reflecting on the year past and thinking about the things most important to me… about what I want to bring into the new year, what I want to leave behind, and how I will move through the world in the days to come.

Life feels more fragile than ever on this planet. It can be overwhelming, sad, frightening. My son and his fiancé don’t believe humans will exist on this planet in 500 years. They are not alone in their belief, their grief. There are generations of people who have much fear and little hope for us, for our wild brothers and sisters, for the ecosystems and cultural systems that sustain us. But fear and loathing cannot be the guiding light for the way we live. Life has always been fragile, fleeting, ephemeral. We must look to the sky, to the stars, for hope in the darkness.

When we do, we see the world with different eyes… eyes that have shone with starlight for billions of years. Eyes that see the past and know the future. Eyes that sparkle with stardust and tell us that everything is as it should be. Our challenge is to reach deep into our own darkness and find the light that never goes out – to sit still and listen, feel the energy of the plants and animals, hear the voices of the stones and the earth herself – then use that ever-burning light to guide us on our journey through this precious life, caring for ourselves and each other with all the love we can muster.

Just as I begin to stand up from my seat in the fire circle, brother coyote calls for his pack. In that moment a shooting star streaks across the sky and the pack yips back their greeting. A flicker of light sparks into flames inside me. Wrapped in darkness, I feel the light.

Embrace the darkness of the season. Find your light.

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