Catching Light

01-03-2016 | Lindsay

A week before Christmas, Scot and Linda hosted a festive community supper to celebrate this thin and holy time of year.  We feasted, exchanged gifts, acted out a wacky rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and listened delightedly to Linda’s fanciful and entrancing telling of the tale of Louhi, the mischievous witch of North Farm who stole the sun and moon (and eventually returned them).  Before telling the tale, Linda explained for the children, and the grown ups, the phenomenon of the solstice, drawing out the waves of light and darkness moving in their circle dance.  This is a wide season, a long threshold, as the light and dark perform their incremental, stately, and endless exchange.

While I am among those who value the dark and its inner horizons of soul, for me this year solstice as been all about the light.  The days here have been cloud-filled and wet, the light filtered, slant, and soft among the damp trees.  The nights leading into the solstice were graced by a waxing moon, full at Christmas, a white silver disc behind the flying clouds.  One night it was so sharply luminous that the edges of everything, the workshop, the sheep fence, the pear tree, were etched precisely in the silver air. The moon shadows lay crisply on the grass.  The whole world radiated gentle light, and the skylights on the rooftops shone like beacons.  In the pre-dawn of the following morning, the moon was midway in the western sky, caressing the rising mist with filmy white fingers.  Descending, it turned to gold as sunlight teased the top of the ridge.

At the turning of the year it is customary to take stock, and here is what I think about: all this crystalline beauty falls near and far across a grim and disheartening world.  Bloody body parts of slain deer are strewn in the woods near the gravel road. Common discourse across our nation is marred by vitriol and boorish speech. Human beings are dying violently in Aleppo, Atlanta, Paris, San Bernadino and a host of other cities.  Assessments confirm that our forest, like many others, is relentlessly shriveling.  Young people we know and love succumb to depression and despair. 

Yet it seems to me that the crux of the solstice is precisely this: that the light and dark exist together, asking nothing of us or of one another, both available to our imagination.  Linda, who crafts the Friends of Silence Letter every month from the written wisdom of the world and the exquisite creativity of visual artists, pinned the January issue on this point.  In the alchemy of light and dark, perhaps most readily experienced through the portal of an open heart and still mind, there is transformative power.  In the Letter, the quote Linda chose from Clarissa Pinkola Estes puts it this way:

"My friends, do not lose heart...For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement…To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity…Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it."

We have walked through the night to the Meditation Shelter to be bathed in firelight on New Year’s Eve, in the crucible of solstice.  It is a potent time, filled with the grace of light and dark, and it is good to be in it together, surrounded by dancing candlelight, in the glow of the fire, overhead the quiet light of moon and stars.  Thus we will not lose heart. We are catching light.