Shifting in the Darkness: From Fear to Hope

There’s a beautiful magic that happens shortly after Halloween ends. I’m always a little sad to see November begin, knowing that the spider webs and skeletons will come down, the costumes will be put into storage, and the jack’o’lanterns tossed into the compost.

But then I see the first lit trees in my local park…and I feel a visceral shift in my body. My psyche, satiated on darkness, suddenly craves light and the magic of hope.

The world is still steeped in its own darkness. The days will continue to get shorter for a while. But this is the darkness that beckons for comforting things like blankets and books, hot chocolate, and toasty fires. I’m ready for stories replete with impossibly happy endings.

Soon I’ll be changing my death altar to a winter one, and I know that my ability to revel in the solstice season stems from having allowed myself to step into the darkness of the previous one.  And it reminds me of how intimately connected hope is to darkness.

I’ve mentioned before that hope is one of the funny little positive emotions that doesn’t show up generally when things are going well. It shows up when things are hard–dark, and it’s the positive emotion that helps us pull through the dark times, working towards an uncertain future.

I become ridiculously…childlike, I guess, during the solstice season. I write letters to Santa, leave cookies and milk out, watch all the feel-good movies, freak out over the excitement of wrapped gifts, and desperately hope that there’s at least one toy in my stocking. I love the snow, the lights, and the bustle of the season. I adore the carols and songs.

Yet I know that it’s partly because of how dark I allow myself to get in October that I can really delve into fostering the child-like wonder and belief in December…er, November (let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a toss-away holiday on the way to the next). In my mind, the sugar-sweet hope is only as good as the awareness of how it could be absent.

Otherwise, it’s just denial.

Darkness can be a symbol of grief, death, and fear—all of what I just immersed myself in—but it’s also a symbol of nurturing, gestation, and rest. So in the coming weeks, I will release the finished energy of the summer and look to what I will begin to birth in the spring.

But first, it’s time to snuggle in and get cozy.

Solstice Song: My Prayer for the Coming Year

Okay, it’s not a “prayer” in the traditional sense, but it is an expression of my desperate hope that we will begin to confront the cultural aspects that provoke violence and suppress healthy expressions of emotion. If you’re a musician, I was hearing a swing beat as I wrote this. If you’re not a musician, ignore that last statement and just read it as a poem. Maybe one day, if I can get my partner to record a melody to it, I’ll post it here. Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas.

“Solstice Song”

Here’s to hoping
That the night will turn to day–
That our tears will lead the way back home.

Here’s to believing
That there is more to life
Than the violence and strife we see.

In our grief may we find
A better frame of mind
Than to leave the whole world blind again.

Though the world seems torn apart,
If we keep an open heart,
We may see a way to start anew.

Here’s to dreaming
That love can heal the earth
And guide us to our birth in peace.

Here’s to living
The change we want to see;
We create our destiny ourselves.

Though today we mourn the dead
There’s still life for us ahead.
We can break the cyclic thread if we choose.

Let us toast to new beginnings,
For they follow every ending.
Hope and love are now ascending with our hearts.