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,” …. https://soundcloud.com/barbara-mcafee/jewels