Into the Dark, December 16

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

During the years between teaching jobs, when I spent winter in my house, I came to terms with December. I felt the way the quiet entered me, the way the darkness wrapped itself around the hollow, filling the spaces with gentle pools of shadow. I never completely overcame the sense of the loss of the sun, but I settled. I breathed. I cherished the inward call.

Now, it takes an act of will, a commitment to daily writing, reading, breathing, to get through to the Solstice and back out again. Every year, it’s a test. I have to keep up all the outer life while honoring the call to go inward. I have to keep juggling while finding that still space inside. And it’s possible. And it’s not a terrible thing–it’s a good challenge. But it’s hard, and it feels unnatural.

I’m imagining myself standing on one leg in the tree pose, with all the stillness and focus that offers, but also juggling six or seven balls at the same time. So today’s word, as jarring as it feels in the stillness of this season, is juggling. A few more days. Just a few more days. Then I can set some of those balls down and BE here in the space of winter.

Gratitude List:
1. My school’s choral program. I hope these kids have some sort of inkling about the treasure that they have in their choral director and the work she does. You should send your kids to my school just so they can be part of our choral groups.
2. The way those branches in the walnut tree, and the spaces between the branches, look like the face of a British badger. I used to be sad that we don’t have such badgers here, but this morning I noticed the one formed by the branches of the tree, protecting the farm, I suppose.
3. Injera. Our friend bought us a packet of nice sour injera yesterday. I suppose that means we’ll be cooking lentils and peas this afternoon.
4. Diversions
5. Good people who make good decisions to make the world better. There are still such people, despite the ruffians and scoundrels. There may be greedmongers, but there are goodnessmongers, too. Justicemongers. Purveyors of hopefulness. You are among them, I know. Thank you.

May we walk through the dark days in Beauty!

I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.
-—Mary Oliver, from “Angels,” Blue Horses

“We owe our children–the most vulnerable citizens in any society–a life free from violence and fear.” ―Nelson Mandela

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
―Margaret Mead

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
―Pema Chödrön

The Swan
by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Stepping Toward the Solstice
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.

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