Thursday, December 8, 2011

Filling the Darkness

We are busy little elves running around in preparation for the holidays, so today I bring you a little something from the archives:


Every year I am presented with a similar challenge during the winter months: How can I make the long, dark evenings feel as full and vibrant as those of the summer months? Certainly there will be less activity-- more quiet, more introspection, more time huddling indoors. That is the gift of the season: stillness. But too often stillness morphs into emptiness, loneliness, despair. We even give names to this lack of substance: seasonal affective disorder, depression. Names to a very real experience of feeling that something is lacking, that our sunny full days have disappeared into darkness.

I am still trying to cultivate a love for this season, for the simplicity it ushers in, for the way that the cold sends us into our hearths to light a fire. We make more of a "to do" of dinner in these months, spending longer around the table, having an official dessert course. And I make sure to get outside with the girls for as long as possible during the daylight-- one or even two hours-- which makes spending an evening inside feel a little more "right."

I realized that there is a beautiful wisdom to the fact that here in Virginia, the most holiday-filled time of the year falls during the darkest months. We fill the cold emptiness with a silent hope, with quiet preparation and aromatic baking. Those of you who know me well may have noticed that I have been filling my own heart and mind with a craftiness that is uncharacteristic of me. And a certain joyful member of our family has filled her own time to mastering the art of crawling this past week-- certainly a change of seasons in our family life (can you say babyproofing?). We seem to take up more household projects during the winter than in the summer-- I know there is along "to do" list that I am already dreaming of completing. And we are much more likely to have guests over for supper during these months-- small and large alike. But no matter how busily we try to weave a little cocoon for ourselves this season, the facts remain the same; it is cold, it is dark, the trees are empty. Our activities do not change this. And maybe there is a certain beauty and wisdom in such scarcity.

How do you pass your winter months? How do you fill the darkness?

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