Friday, January 7, 2022

Light in the Darkness


When I look outside it is dark almost all the time. And raining. It will be like this for months here in the Northwest where I live. Every year I wonder how I can possibly endure this weather, and every year I do it. These past few years the restrictions on travel have made the winter months more intense. The wet darkness can feel interminable. When I wake up it is dark and when I climb upstairs from my basement office it is dark. All-day long I can hear the patter of raindrops against my office window. 

I used to keep my curtains open so I could see if it was raining or maybe catch a rare glimmer of sunlight but on Zoom, the direct light on my face created a washed-out, exhausted, geriatric woman yellow with liver failure. That was just too hard to look at all day long, so now I keep my curtains closed. If there is a rest from the rain I am not aware of it.

Darkness has always represented something ominous and dangerous to me. Growing up I feared the darkness in my neighborhood. There was lots of crime where I grew up and in the dark, I was always looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t fall prey to the dangers of the night. I’ve always been an early-to-bed-early-to-rise person, preferring to sleep through the darkness.

In one of my regular self-care practices, Yoga Nidra, we actively invoke opposites — of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This practice trains the mind to welcome everything as it is, to truly be in the present moment. It also has the miraculous effect of unlocking a part of the brain that is neither here nor there. In truly welcoming opposites we become suspended, everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

As I look outside to the darkness, hearing the constant rain, I feel anxious. I am fearful that it will swallow me up, take me down a dark hole into a depressive state binge TV watching, junk food eating, slothdom. But then I remind myself that the opposite of darkness is light. I can close my eyes and imagine looking out the same window into the light. For me, lightness is the peak of summer, the perfect time of year here in the Northwest. 

In my mind’s eye, I see a blue sky, a banditry of chickadees popping around the lilac bush. I smell freshly cut grass and flowering jasmine. I feel the warmth of the summer air touched by the cool breeze coming up from the lake. I can hear the caw of the crows on the telephone wires that wrap the air around my house and the honk of the geese who live on the grassy edges of the lake. I imagine walking barefoot out of my open back door to pick lettuce and snap peas from my small garden, filling a basket feeling the thrill of the bounty I’ve grown.

As I sit here writing now the rain is growing heavier. It is pounding on our metal roof and I wonder if today the rainfall will be substantial enough to permeate the leak we’ve been watching in our basement wall. I’ve been up for a few hours already and it still looks like midnight outside. The darkness here is real. But the darkness won’t last forever. And I know that, with my imagination, I have to power to find the light. 

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