December Evening

TracksThe rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know? J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

These days darkness falls at about 4:30 in the afternoon. On days like this one, with thick cloud and light snow, night comes even earlier. We will have these early evenings for another six weeks or so, before the darkness really begins to retreat.

I’m tying to keep in mind that darkness ebbs and flows. (I guess light does as well, although I seem less attuned to that.) I am reminded that in the midnight hour, the darkness may seem here to stay.It is not, of course. Yet, within us resides the age-old human fear of unrelenting winter and darkness.

A while back Jennie and I created a toy theatre piece about Coyote stealing fire. (I’m particularly fond of Coyote stories.) In the stories, Coyote comes to the aid of The People who spend each winter in darkness and cold, thoroughly miserable, while ogres enjoy cooked food, warmth, and light. This thieving is no easy task as the greedy, ferocious, if not exactly bright, ogres guard fire jealously. Against all odds, Coyote eventually succeeds in stealing the precious flames, although he nearly destroys the world in the process.

I believe our great stories are about building community and supporting healing. They remind us that creativity, humor, cooperation, and resilience can go a long way in dark times. These stories are very important now, as they are at times in every age, for they tell us that evil cannot rue indefinitely.

Still, in dangerous times, when the dark is rising, those who have experienced trauma may well find themselves thrown back to moments when others had control and inflicted great harm. Then, it may seem the evil they survived has returned for them, and that all hope of a kind and safe future is futile. In such dangerous moments we may forget that the rising darkness must crest, collapse, and withdraw. Such is the way of the world: that which ascends must recede. Still, in harsh times we may find ourselves struggling to keep heart and to trust Nature.

I imagine part of the problem is one of time scales. Those who are subjected to ruthless power do not know when, or if, they will be freed, nor whether they will survive the onslaught. We know only that evil must, eventually, cede the world to a brighter day. Sadly, that promise may seem woefully inadequate to the needs of the moment, and that brighter future appear very far away, indeed.

Yet, all is subject to change. Often the change that is needed is hidden in the very structure of evil, and transformation appears as if from nowhere. As Tolkien advised,Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend. It can be so, sometimes.” (The Return of the King)

There are many here who rule no realm, yet care for all that is worthy and now in peril. I imagine you are one of these righteous ones. If so, please remember: you have allies in the work.


25 thoughts on “December Evening

  1. Great essay, Michael. Yes, we must all hold hands and work for the common good. My waking prayer this morning was for God to use me as I am able. That prayer is a powerful one for me because it requires me to give up control and be willing to act.

    1. Hi Pat, Yes, may we be used by the Creator. I try to hold the idea that we cannot know what good may come of evil days. Still, I am increasingly challenged as to how I can act. We share the failing body experience. I imagine we ill do what we can.

    1. Lindsay, I wonder often how we might enjoy the darkness and the light. Sometimes I miss my young adulthood, when darkness and joy were often intertwined. The idea of the association between evil and darkness is old. So much that is evil can only be accomplished when no one is watching. Yet, when evil grows strong even good people may embrace it in the daylight. Of course, thee is the real threat that the dark side of human behavior will indeed descent and require us to hold close the light. Seems we are headed that way.

  2. Beautiful and wise words to light up the darkness Michael. I was thinking about you tonight as I watched a documentary on the history of polio, although I’d heard of polio I had never known about its impact or history until I read words you’d written about it, which led me to learn more about it.

    1. Andrea, I think Polio is now a forgotten experience. Perhaps that allows politicians and others to cut services for people with disabilities. If everyone was worried about the next epidemic, there might be more generosity.

      I often wonder about the virus.How could it be that virtually everyone had it, but only about 1/100 had severe symptoms? Most kids did not know they had the virus as it just passed quietly through them.

      So very odd.

  3. Wonderful article. I am not one who likes when it gets dark early. I cannot get out to see the sunshine but it bursts through my bedroom window. I grew up in NJ and NYC and remember those snowy evenings. I liked them because they brightened the darkness. No longer able to tolerate the cold, I now live in Central Florida by the Gulf. When temperatures drop below 70, it is quite chilly for me. Thank goodness I only venture out for doc appointments! 🙂 I enjoyed reading this entry.

    1. Thank you Nancy. I have been thinking much about life in the tropics. I love the consistency of things like the rising and setting of the sun. One knows the time of day within a few minutes, as every day is essentially the same. Then, after a while, I miss the drama of the north.

  4. You are hitting the nail here for many people, Michael. In the daylight it is easy to see and to find hope. In the dark nights the darker thoughts are easy to catch, then it is the time, where we use our will to find our own inner light 🙂

      1. I agree Michael. There are also positives to the darkness and we need to appreciate these too.
        I did more think not to lose our positive mind in the darkness. Then we risk to lose hope too, which are killing.

  5. Well, one can see the darkness differently as well. I lived for quite a while in the Arctic with more than 4 month of darkness. I loved this time. This was the time of great creativity for me, a time a wrote my books, saw many people, it was the cosy time of the year, very peaceful. The other 4 month of constant light were rather hectic. Well, I always saw it as an extraverted time. Winter was maybe more introverted, but it was then when we all came together having a great time.
    There is even a historical background to it: The time of darkness was the holy time of women, darkness was seen as beauty as well as holy until the first light mysteries (Persia) during patriarchal times. To make it short: Femal dominated cultures saw darkness as holy because life appears from darkness (> cult of black madonnas f.e.), male dominated cultures saw light as holy because for them mind (looking up) was freedom.
    Anyway, in the end light and darkness need each other and they both have their positive as well as their negative side. But I suppose it’s too easy to see darkness as negative and light as positive. And seeing it symbolically: To be good = light only, isn’t that horribly boring?
    Lots of love from the sunny coast of North Norfolk

    1. Klausbernd, I am continually reminded that darkness and light are interwoven, each meaningless without the other. Yes, an over focus on the light is dangerous, as is the one of darkness. Still, there are good reasons we speak of evil as residing in the dark.

  6. Ah! Michael, thanks for the reminder and especially thanks for your kind soul that shines so brightly! It is the way of the world and some have said we need opposites to truly know/understand. I send you lots of warm energy and light! We don’t get dark quite that early here, but I remember those long dark and cold days. I’ve just started to notice that the days are getting longer and that speaks to my soul. I can only pray that we can accelerate our energy…which means getting that energy together with other’s of like energy…and that it will make a difference. I have to believe it will make a difference!
    Blessings to you and yours in this new year!

    1. Hi Lorrie,
      Yes, the days are longer! I love the darkness at midwinter, and I long for the light filled days of summer. I embrace them both. I hope that the returning light will indeed usher in some much needed sanity and empathy.
      I’m glad you are adding your bright thoughts to the gathering light!

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