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Heading Toward the Light

December 23, 2017

The first day of winter arrived this week. Today snow falls gently outside, and I’m reminded that January and February will bring more of it until I don’t view it with perhaps quite the same level of wonder as I do this morning. 

The first day of winter…short days, dark mornings, the snap of cold air. With each passing year, I understand just a little better why some people choose to live in warmer, sunnier climes, even if it means forsaking this change of seasons I love so much—the falling leaves, budding crocuses, brilliant autumn afternoons, and the dancing flakes I see outside today. The months of January and February are harder than most for those of us who long for light. And…if I let myself dwell on the “first day of winter” idea, I might feel discouraged thinking of how far away spring and summer seem from now.

Something in all of us loves the light…in all its varied forms:  rays of warmth, beams through the window, sparkles on the water, glowing lamps that hold back the night inside our homes, sparks from our fires, lightning streaking across dark sky. The older I get, the more I find myself a heliotrope; leaning toward the light, yearning for days to last longer. Perhaps some part of my soul knows I have passed my life’s own summer solstice and am journeying (though slowly I hope) toward the longest night from which I will not awaken in the same form. Thus, I lean ever more strongly toward the sun, and the year’s own rhythms reassure me. 

That first day of winter is actually a corner-turning moment in the rhythms of the planet. The solstice that marks the shortest day and longest night is the beginning of the return of the light, not the beginning of a several-month slog to spring. Each day after this one gets just a fraction longer, and that is cause for celebration. We are heading away from the darkest days with each rotation of the sphere on which we stand.

Earth’s cycles remind us that days can lengthen again and light will once more  hang in the sky long after evening comes on summer nights if we are only patient with the movement of the planet. The mornings of winter—awakening in the dark, heading out into darkness to start the day; these are often uninspiring. Dimming light on December evenings, arriving long before the dinner hour, feels like a cheat; the day disappeared from us so quickly. 

But when the  winter solstice comes, and the calendar tips over into the slowly-returning light, I can feel my heart fill with hope. Somehow the angle of the beams changes fractionally, reminding me each morning that I am one with the earth and our predictable journey toward longer days, dripping once again with precious sunlight. 

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