I used to believe that I was a sunshine lover all the way. Each spring I’d rush outside to soak up as many warm rays as possible after spending a long, dark winter inside. In the mornings I’d walk the neighborhood. The afternoons were spent lounging at the park with my favorite sidekick. My windows would be open to let in light and air as I cleaned away the cobwebs of the prior year.
The Texas summer sun was so reliable that when a rainy day did occur something felt wrong with the world. I’d sit inside lamenting the gray clouds, the loud thunder, and the pressing darkness. Rainy days always seem darker in the summer. My mood would take a noticeable southward dip only to quickly recover when the sun returned the following day.
I used to believe that grey clouds and less light kept me from being who I truly am. I thought that it led to unhappiness, loneliness, and boredom. I felt afraid of slower rhythms, quiet, and true rest. My ingrained sense of productivity taught me to overlook these natural inclinations in favor of work.
I believed that giving in to darkness during the fall and winter meant that I’d be giving up on what felt most important to me. It felt like betraying the very thing that brought me the most joy – sunlight.
How could I feel so good in the light of spring and expect to also feel good in the dark of fall? With light and dark being at odds with one another, it surely meant that being in favor with one meant being out of favor with the other.
Naturally, this evidence led me to believe that the darkness of fall and winter had no place in my life. I’ve spent year after year pushing back against the descending arc of the turning of the wheel. I’d pretend fall wasn’t coming for as long as possible until the very last second of summer was gone.
I’ve hidden behind TV, alcohol, and other things. I’ve looked ahead to the emerging light of the next year with optimism and hope while completely displacing and dissociating from the current reality. I’ve held my resistance in one hand while looking backward in time. I’ve spent many fall nights lingering with every last ray of light. I’ve savored and honored it until there was no more.
Eventually, I started to perform rituals to honor summer and reluctantly welcome fall and winter. My thinking was that if I could bring some conscious awareness to these seasons that maybe – just maybe – these darker days would become easier, smoother, and, dare I say, brighter.
I’ve begrudgingly released old habits to raise awareness so I could learn why I feel the way I do. I’ve shown up each year committed to uncovering or recovering the fullness of who I am within these seasons.
Despite these great strides, I’ve clung to the belief that in my heart I’m a sunshine lover through and through. I’ve held onto the fear that I may never truly fall in love with darkness. More than that though, I had resigned myself to this knowing, certain that I may never feel about fall and winter as I do about spring and summer.
But the reality is that the conversation had never consciously been about darkness. It had only been about the season of fall. It wasn’t until one evening on my drive home from work that I decided to stare into the eyes of darkness at last.
I’d been watching the fading light for weeks. I’d been tracking the setting sun as it plunged behind the horizon earlier and earlier each night. Until one night there was no more light. There was only darkness.
As I looked out into the darkness, squinting to see the trees lining the highway, I suddenly felt my attention press inward towards myself. Where before the light of day drew me out into the world to engage and play and be free, now I felt the tables had turned.
My attention felt directed towards me. I felt a strong pull to be inside myself. What may be a natural inclination, no doubt, felt more like an unnoticed habit ripe for the light of consciousness.
I continued to drive while visions of summertime danced through my mind in all their radiant light. I saw how engaged I was with the light of day. How enthralled I became with the clouds, the trees, and the warmth. Like an intimate dance that went on day after day after day.
Instantly, I felt the dichotomy between my enchantment with light and my repulsion with darkness. In the presence of darkness, I left the room, metaphorically speaking. Resigned, as I have been, to believe that there’s no joy to be found here. It felt like a caving in or a collapsing of energy, a habitual hiding away, or an unwillingness to engage. A completely unconscious deflation of power.
Which led me to wonder… for all my love of light, what of darkness? What have I against the beauty and power and depth of the dark? What would happen if I reached out into the night with my attention and gave myself to the dance? How would she be with me? What does she have to teach me? And what do I have to offer her? These questions flitted across my mind.
I reached up with a jar and caught these dainty fireflies to take back with me. What a gift. These questions have served many contemplations as I’ve driven to and from work, as I’ve sat at the edge of my yard and the farmer’s field beneath the light of the full moon, and as I’ve felt the call to close the curtains in the middle of the day on numerous occasions.
The medicine of darkness has started to reveal itself to me. She has a palpable presence like that of light but she engages in different ways. Less obvious ways. She’s peaceful and soothing. She creates quiet and reprieve and allows for rest and rejuvenation. She soothes the nervous system, stills the mind, and calms the heart. She brings a presence that engulfs and grounds.
She’s like a vessel. She contains. She holds life like a mother cradling her child. Her presence is pressing like a weighted blanket. She turns the light of awareness inside. She encourages you to turn inwards and embark on an inner journey.
A journey one can have either literally inside or outside themselves. An inner journey directed and played out in the outer world works best under the shade of darkness. But if you go inward, it is wise to lay bread crumbs to the outer world.
She demands attentiveness to energy and vibration. Thoughtfulness and consideration of your impact on the environment feels called for as your presence feels loud at night. She protects you from being seen by unwanted forces. And you are simultaneously more vulnerable than ever as your eyes strain to see. But she provides help at times with the service of the stars and the moon.
Darkness is a presence of great beauty, power, and depth. And as I’ve given myself fully to contemplations of her, an unfolding has occurred within me. I see where I have unfairly favored light and turned a blind eye to the goodness that lies on the other side. My long-held resistance has loosened its grip. The wisdom of darkness has penetrated my cells.
As I’ve begun to dance with her, I feel her changing me. My nervous system makes more sense beneath her protective covering. My inner world crosses thresholds now that were once unconsciously forbidden. My natural inclination for winter hibernation has shed layers of shame and recovered its rightful place.
Now in reverse fashion, I watch as the sunlight creates resistance in me. I see myself craving the comfort of darkness via closed curtains on a sunny day or the slow, quiet whisper of low-lying grey clouds and fog. I feel the energy of the light pulling me out of myself, and I want to make it stop. I want my dance with darkness. I want to crawl back into the cave and hide. I want the rest and the quiet of the dark den.
As I deepen my relationship with darkness, I’m excited to uncover how she plays with my love of light like they do at the edges of the day. Dawn and dusk. Where darkness gives way to light and where light gives way to darkness. This interplay of light and dark enthralls me.
For now, though, I’ll continue to court darkness and play in the field of her wisdom as winter carries us on through for a couple more months.