From Summer to Winter
Summer energises and its light and heat have always lifted my mood. In winter, I’ve felt myself falling, like snow. Yet this year, as I wrote in ‘Loving Autumn and Winter’, I’ve been taking positive steps towards changing my attitude to the seasons. Since that post, my thinking has altered further in that I’m seeing the physical and mental tiredness that winter brings as not unhealthy, but as a call to rest. Even dips in mood can be seen positively, as a reminder to nurture oneself. We have entered what Terry Wilding describes in ‘Happy Winter Solstice’ as a “kind darkness”, like that from which we were born. This year I’ve been feeling that loving dark. The falling snow is soft and quiet.
I took a decision to enjoy this winter. Sometimes once a decision is made and action is taken, things just work out. I’ve been given rest; the school where I work in the mornings has also gone quiet for the Winter. A sizeable chunk of income is gone, but I’m realising the importance of this downtime. It’s been given to me when I most needed it. While the sun was shining I’d been working hard.
Light and dark in harmony
Just as day and night allow for activity and repose as the earth rotates on itself, so do summer and winter over the year. As Sharon Kehl Kalifano writes in A Little Perspective, “Winter, just like sadness, holds a critical role in maintaining balance. We need winter to clarify our water sources, limit animal populations and even help plants thrive.” So we have the flowing dance of light and dark. Yet as we know with yin and yang, light and dark are also found within each other as well as alongside each other. At the core of dark is light.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” It is in the quiet and cradling dark of winter (and night) that we can find our own light. This is our own inner warmth, constant embers in in the darkness. Brigit Anna McNeill describes this as “the gold and the nourishment held within”.
There is light in the darkness around us too. Earlier this week we had the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, yet with the supermoon it was a brilliant night. Silver poured in through our windows. This moonlight is just one example, the most known yet subtle night light. In water and in woodland there is phosphorescence and white plants glow in a night-time garden. For those near the Poles with many months of winter, there’s the otherworldly magic of the Aurora Borealis or the Aurora Australis. And then there is fire…
Night thoughts and senses
Do we actually lose our senses at night (and during the dark winter)? Not necessarily I suppose, but they heighten, as do our emotions. The calmness of night allows space for feelings expose themselves. Depth of thought, meditation, intuition and instinct also come to the fore. Maybe this is for survival, as if we went back into the woods of primitive times we would especially need these qualities at this time.
Although, we do have the word ‘lunacy’, and as Brassaï wrote, (as quoted in Wilding’s blog post ‘By the Light of the Moon and Stars’), night “disturbs and surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces within us which are dominated by reason during the daytime.”.
In the article Can a sleepless night awaken creativity? (The Guardian), the author quotes the fiction writer Brian Aldiss, who notes “The night seems to realise a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instinct and feelings; as with dawn a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams drip into the waking mind.”. The author also recounts the appearance, throughout mythology, of seers who have been ‘darkened’, either through blindness or time spent in caves and other underworlds. Whether prophetic or not, even the wakeful night is a time when we border our dreams.
Again in ‘By the Light of the Moon and Stars’, Wilding spoke about thoughts as ‘sparks’ of light in the darkness of our brains. The same pattern again, which many liken as to how life began. The night has to be there to give quiet, rest and space, contrast so that we can realise our internal light and truth and love. Seeds are planted. Later, the day brings its energy, exuberance and growth. So what of dawn? Perhaps this fresh time, which borders night and tempers it with the logic and reason of day, is our most creative one.
Truth could be that night awakens creativity, but that dawn is the optimal time to realise it. The ‘no emails after 11pm’ rule exists for a reason (at least for me). Just after sunrise is the time when I can put my thoughts together sanely and iron out the creases. Yet nothing would feel so meaningful if night had not meandered through and if night conversations had not taken place. Of course, this could be likened to winter and spring.
Love in December
So this is an appreciation of night and day, dark and light, winter and summer, moon and sun. Even of sadness and happiness? Of contrast… I’ve always yearned for summer, but now I’m beginning to feel winter’s comforting love. I can surrender to it and the dream-time it brings.