When we thought about moving here to the north, we knew the winters would be cold. In the spring, it was easy to say we’d be okay enduring a longer winter than the ones we were used to. And then we had a lovely summer. We reveled in the long, golden days, and we told ourselves: whatever comes in winter, it will be okay. The tradeoff will be worth it.
But of course, we are mortal. And that means that now, in December, we have forgotten what we felt like in July. The weeks on end of grey have conspired to make us forget the blue, swimmable water of summer and the long warm evenings when we sipped wine in sleeveless sundresses at sunset on a dock.
But it is not the cold I mind.
It is the dark.
When the day starts fading about 2:30 in the afternoon, the grey of the outside feels like it is greying the inside of me, too. And then the dark is here early, and it is very dark; we live far away from streetlights, and we have no neighbors whose lights blaze.
I find myself longing for light.
I understand now, the significance of the winter solstice. I have been counting the days until the earth, always tilted, has journeyed as far as it can and is forced to come back. After tomorrow, ( December 21) the daylight will grow.
A quick internet search tells me that 10% of the world’s population lives at or above the 45th parallel, so they, too, experience the same amount (or more) of dark winter days. An author friend of mine told me winter is her most creative time; she can “hunker down” and write. Norwegians, apparently, have learned how to master it. ( Read here.) So this gives me hope that I may adjust, as years go by.
But this year, as we creep towards the nativity, I am yearning for that change – for the solstice and the shift towards light.
I read the scriptures about Jesus birth, and the words that grab me this year are these:
“The people in darkness have seen a great light,” John writes.
“…the glory of the Lord shone around them, Luke says, describing the visit by the angels to the shepherds in that dark field.
And of course this is what we need: the glory of the Lord shining here, now, today. The world’s darkness is oh so easy to delineate: terrifying threats that close schools, poisons which infiltrate our food, greed that is unmitigated. Children take up machetes and guns to kill. Babies are washed up on shores. Skin color and headgarb make us afraid. Alzheimers steals the souls of our grandmothers. In so many ways, our nights are dark and long; we need no help knowing we need light.
And so we ask, we long for, we wait and pray for that turning to light. It is a certain fact that the earth, at the solstice, will turn back towards summer. We are mortal and therefore aware of the dark that is here and now and that seems hopeless and never-ending. But it is a certain fact, too, that the Light that is the light of all men came into the world at Christmas. He overpowered the dark. We don’t know when, but at some point the light will grow until all our days are summer.