Make a vow when Solstice comes:
To find the Light in everyone
Keep the faith and bang the drum
On the longest night of the year
–Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Longest Night of the Year
December is my favorite time of the year. This has little to do with Christmas–much more to do with softening skies and clear landscapes. Stark tree branches etched across a grey sky and if you’re lucky and paying close enough attention, a bright red flash of a cardinal’s wings flitting from branch to branch.
I don’t mind the early dark. And I crave the quiet that seems to sometimes settle across the earth as winter’s solstice curls in on itself and back out again, the very long dark that marks this night suddenly, by morning, pointing toward light and lengthy days. Before I know it, I’ll be calling to Curly Girl that it is time for bed, even though there’s light enough to still play soccer by with the neighborhood boys. Spring will come. It always does. And while there’s hope in that, I know, too, that this long night, it must be felt. It must be entered into. It must be lived through.
There is no shortcut to morning’s light.
I used to love December with the heart of one who’d known some hard moments, who’d experienced grief, and who’d certainly walked with others down the path of a long night, but who had not quite known such a long dark night of wondering and fear myself.
I love it now with the heart of someone who knows what it is to be broken, to be worn, to be frightfully unsure of what’s next. And this means I love it more. With all of me. Not just the pretty and perfect parts, but the bits that are ugly and sad and shattered. I love it with vulnerability now, even as I fight against that same vulnerability and wish so much for a version of me that used to exist. Things were easier then. Even if she wasn’t half so strong. Half so forged into imperfect wholeness. Half so cognizant of her dreadful mistakes. Half so aware that grace is real and love is more than she ever knew and grit…it is a real thing. And it’ll get you through.
But you must go through. Not around. Not alongside of. Not like a sprinter, set to reach some imagined finish line long before expected. Long dark nights…you must go through them. It is the only way.
My heart aches tonight for more people that I could even begin to name. Folks I love fiercely and folks I barely know and news stories that have pierced my soul. Because life, it is a difficult thing, even as it is a lovely and delightful thing, and every one of us, without exception, wages our own battles of fear and uncertainty and sorrow. We seem to have a hard time remembering this some days, too caught up in our own ideas of what this life should be like and how we should live it to realize that no two people’s journey is ever the same.
I’ve no map for such a long night. No direct route. No specific steps. If I did, I’d offer it free to everyone I know. I only know the way I’ve watched others go through it. The way I’ve gone through it. With hands to hold. With kind words to show the way. With the lights of humility and grace as beacons. With an assurance that there is no journey we make truly alone, even when in the wee hours it feels as though we might just be one solitary life and not much of one at that.
But the promise of this longest night of the year–it holds. Again and again the darkness gives way to light. To the possibility of goodness. To the hope of new life bursting all around us and reminding us that even in the heart of this darkness there is, pulsing at the edges, biding its spot in our souls…Love.
And where there is love, there is, always, hope.
And so we keep the faith. And we bang our drums against the things that would keep us in the darkness. And we bear witness to love. And we hold on to the promise that the morning will come.
And when it does, we will stand in its beautiful light. The longest night of the year having been lived through, such that we will never again be quite as we once were.