The Return of the Light

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

As the Northern Hemisphere welcomes Winter this week, my mind is a jumble of thoughts. Winter officially begins on the Winter Solstice, December 21 this year. This marks the shortest day of the year, where darkness makes her longest appearance. This means that it is also the return of the light, as our daylight hours become longer and longer.

Throughout the Fall, I have observed nature preparing for this season. Trees drop their leaves as they conserve energy, while allowing the wind and snow to blow through their branches instead of weighing them down. Bats and turtles and snakes and bees are among the animals that prepare for hibernation by adding body weight to get them through their long sleep. Birds migrate to a warmer climate or stockpile food.

For modern humans, it’s a different story. We have the comfort of our homes and of warm clothing and ready access to food to get through even the harshest winter. However, that was not always the case. As recently as a couple hundred years ago, in cold climates where the days were especially short and food was scarce, they would sleep more and eat less. There is even some evidence that suggests early humans may have hibernated – essentially slowing down their metabolisms and sleeping for months at a time.

I’ve never been a fan of the cold. I find however, that as I spend more time noticing nature, and how she prepares for the winter, I’m preparing too. I’ve come to appreciate those extra pounds I tend to put on, because I stay a little warmer. I’m sleeping just a little longer and rising with the sun. I continue to spend time outside to stave off the winter blues. I embrace the beauty and the wisdom that comes with this season.

This year, instead of bemoaning the cold short days, I am celebrating the return of the light. Much like Mary Oliver in her poem “Snowy Night”, I’m am staying fully present, noticing what I notice. I welcome the cold and wonder at the dark.

Snowy Night by Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *