Jewels – Reflections from the Dark

It’s the dark time of year here in the north country where I live. In addition to the oh-so-short daylight, we have had a long run of cloudy and foggy weather. I am missing the luminous presence of snow cover. I am yearning for the heart-thumping delight of skiing through the forest. I am hungry for the sun. Heavy in the bones. Groggy in the thoughts. Light years from holly-jolly, ho ho ho….

Many people find this time of year magical and delightful. Not me. I don’t participate in much of the cultural tradition of the season. Friends and family have minimized gift giving, so there’s little shopping to do. As a single person with no children, I am free from the kind of obligations and traditions that having a family can entail.

I do enjoy decorating my little Norfolk pine and baking up famous and addictive maple five-spice almonds. . I attend one or two holiday shindigs and play a few holiday songs on the piano.

For me this is a time of reflection, solitude, and hibernation. And I’m finally admitting the truth of that after years of striving to be chipper and full of holiday cheer. What a relief.

Many years ago I wrote a three-part chant about darkness called “Jewels.”   The first line, “every time I go into the darkness, I return with fistfuls of jewels,” was something I said to a voice coaching client many years ago as she was struggling in her own darkness.

The second line, “midnight velvet wraps all around me; stars glitter brilliant above,” was composed under the stars in a hot tub overlooking Lake Superior. And the third line, “dreaming darkness, dreaming light,” emerged at my monthly community sing as the group sang the first two parts.

Many of my songs become medicine for me long after I’ve written them. A wise part of myself composes a message that brings healing or insight months or years down the line.

This chant is one of those “messages in a bottle.” As I open it up every winter, teach it to groups, and hear the haunting harmonies, it reminds me once again that this dark time is rich with learning. I remember to trust what is happening deep below the surface of my awareness even if it is uncomfortable and counter-cultural.

Things that fuel me in during this time are polar opposite to the frenzy I witness all around me. Things like silence, solitude, walking outside (no matter the weather), reading, feeding the birds, cooking, and puttering in my house. I am less social, less attentive to my friends. I sing less and dream more.

Who knows what jewels will come from this round of darkness? What songs are incubating in the stillness? What dreams are dreaming me during the long, long nights? These questions burn like a steady candle in the deep darkness of this sacred and challenging time.

To hear “Jewels,” ….


About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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3 Responses to Jewels – Reflections from the Dark

  1. Sabina says:

    Thank-you for sharing this beautiful Peace. Wonderful.

  2. Ooh, meant to comment on this – I sent it on to several friends… Thank you, Barbara.

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