The ancient alchemists believed that your material goes black just before it turns to gold. That has always helped me in times of deep despair. Remembering that the most absorbing blackness comes before just the dawn is a trick I have used to endure with hope.
And seeds germinate in the dark. They snuggle down into the deepest darkest recesses and wait. Then from the cold and dark they begin to grow…..
I expected to learn how to live better by living closer to the natural world when I moved to the mountains. But I fight the learning. Every single time. When winter comes and the sun dips behind the mountain at 4 o ‘ clock and the dark cold seeps into my bones, I still run around like crazy. I wonder why everything closes early. I rail against the the consuming quiet with my phone, my blackberry, and my voice. I play loud music and I talk way too fast. It is as if the quiet is a scary thing that must be conquered along with the dark.
And still the darkness comes, and the quiet envelops our world. The stars fill the sky and the magnificent cope of heaven offers up a chance to wonder in the all consuming quiet. The birds munch quietly and move slowly at the feeder conserving their energy and waiting with hope. The chipmunks are all snuggled in somewhere. We don’t see them at all for months. Likewise the raccoons and foxes are mostly absent from the landscape and the deer are around mainly in the mornings. Where do they all go in this leafless world? You would think we would see them everywhere. But we don’t. They are tucked away, now a gentle waiting part of the quiet and of the dark. The people who have adapted eat an early supper and sleep a deep long nighttime slumber, waking refreshed and renewed sometime in April.
We smile at little children who are afraid of the dark. But what are city lights a monument to, if not that same old fear wrought on a more grown up stage? There are no street lights up here. It is why our nighttime skies are so magnificent. And yet every year when new people move in they argue to add lights since they can’t see so well to drive at night in the winter. The old timers wonder where they have to go, and tell them that nothing is open anyway so they should just go home, or maybe back where they came from. The letters in the papers slow down by about February when the snow has lightened the landscape naturally and months go by before the argument begins again. The Vermonters barely offer any words to the debate, knowing that if they are simply quiet and steadfast nothing much will happen anyway. And so the lights never come, but the stars always do.
Winter seems to ask us to lean into the darkness. To be quiet and see what might come up in the spring if we simply slow down, and snuggle into the silence and the deepest blackness where everything is perfectly simple and the new growth can begin. I think maybe all this darkness has a voice and we are supposed to be listening. Apparently the rest of the animals can hear it so maybe I can too.
Be still. Yes. I am trying to pay attention……