Hello darkness, my old friend

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When you were a child, didn’t you sometimes seek out darkness?
Maybe you made a cozy cave under the covers for you and a sibling or friend to share your deepest thoughts. 
Maybe you loved playing hide and seek, tucked away behind a curtain or in a closet. Maybe you created a fort under a table.
Maybe you enjoyed standing under the night sky with your eyes delighting in the depth of velvety darkness. And maybe you lived in an area with fireflies to chase about. How magical!
Maybe sometimes you placed your palms over your eyes to recreate that dark, safe and warm.

At the same time, maybe at bedtime, you begged to leave the light on or the door open, fearing what lurked in the dark under the bed, in the closet, or out the window. But, even so, your eyes soon shut out that same light and your midnight mind imagined a wondrous world woven out of the darkness.

In our culture, so often darkness is associated with evil. While it’s true that darkness can hide wrongdoing, and if you were done wrong, the darkness may not feel safe or delightful at all.
But the dark is not wrong itself. It is not the source of evil. The dark is, in fact, the birthplace of life as a seed in the soil,  underwater, or in the womb. 

So when we come to the period of the longest nights, as we are right now in the Northern Hemisphere, can we celebrate the darkness instead of brushing it aside in our eagerness to rush toward the coming of the light?

Here are several offerings for you to explore the nature of darkness. The first is my animated version of my poem about darkness. Click on the link:

Winter Solstice – a Celebration

And here is the poem itself. Read it through and then listen to the audio where I offer my reason for writing it and additional insights, line by line.

In Celebration of the Winter Solstice

Do not be afraid of the darkness
Dark is the rich fertile earth
that cradles the seed, nourishing growth. 

Dark is the soft night that cradles us to rest.

Only in darkness
can stars shine across the vastness of space. 

Only in darkness
is the moon’s dance so clear.

There is mystery woven in the dark, quiet hours,

There is magic in the darkness.  

Do not be afraid.
We are born of this magic.
It fills our dreams
that root, unravel and reweave themselves
in the shelter of the deep dark night.

The dark has its own hue,
its own resonance, its own breath.
It fills our soul,
not with despair, but with promise.

Dark is the gestation of our deep and knowing self.

Dark is the cave where we rest and renew our souls.

We are born of the darkness,
and each night we return 
to the deep moist womb of our beginnings.

Do not be afraid of the darkness,
for in the depth of that very darkness
comes the first glimpse of our own light,
the pure inner light of love and knowing.

As it glows and grows, the darkness recedes.
And we revel in the wonder of all that is revealed. 
As we shed our light, we shed our fear.

So, do not rush the coming of the sun. 
Do not crave the lengthening of the day.

Celebrate the darkness.
Here and now. A time of richness. A time of joy.

– Stephanie Noble, 1992

This poem is read around the world at the Winter Solstice. It is also featured on the Unitarian Universalist website. Please share the poem or this post if you are so inspired. Everyone needs a little inspiration!

And now, here is an audio recording of my own exploration of the poem as I read it two decades later. It’s sometimes interesting to hear the poet’s reflections:

In class, there was lots of rich sharing about the dark and about ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice. One student was reminded of the first line of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel: “Hello darkness. my old friend.” Making friends with darkness in whatever form it arises is befriending this moment just as it is.

Can we acknowledge and recognize the presence and value of darkness in our own lives? We may talk about dark times, personally or politically, or dark emotions of anger, rage, and shame. We make these cultural choices, but they feel embedded, hardwired, and absolutely true. We can experiment with them. We can enter what we see as a dark time with the courage of curiosity and caring. We can find our balance in the dark. We can find our breath, our night vision, and the radiant center of our being to explore what’s going on. We can become fearless. 

To end, I share artist/animator Will Noble’s recently released animated film Mimi Ni. Although he (my husband of half a century!) would never say it is about darkness, notice how he honors its presence throughout and how the film begins in absolute darkness, the birthplace of all life. If you enjoy it, please share it as well!

Mimi Ni, an animated short by Will Noble

Happy Solstice and every joy of the season! – Stephanie

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