Sweet Darkness by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
January has settled deep into our bones now. The chill of it. The bleakness. And yes, even the beauty of it all. It is a simplified view. Skeletal. Austere. We woke this morning to a thermometer reading 3 degrees. The darkness of the new day wrapped around our newly-awakened eyes like an unwelcome guest. The early dawn air and surroundings actually appear blue as we begin preparing breakfast for our not-so-little ones. We live in a frozen land. Hours later, the sun has emerged from behind the mountains, casting light beams through our windows. The snow sparkles like the glitter from a preschooler’s art kit. For the moment, I feel redeemed by the light.
What is it about winter? Particularly, the beginning months of each new year. The merriment and frenzy of December is long past. The days of January and February spread out before us like an open road. These days can feel empty for many of us. Long. Dark. Uncomfortable. Lonely. Quiet.
The world just feels different. Our hikes are filled with a new silence. All that surrounds us feels suspended in sleep. Noises of all kinds are absorbed by the thick blanket of snow. It covers all we see. Branches, rocks, mountain crevices, the underneaths of cliffs and trails. The trees look lifeless. They almost cease to move. The green lush hues of spring and summer and the rich foliage of fall are long gone here.
Nature has gone inside. Into the roots. To shore up. To strengthen from the inside out. When you think of planting bulbs in the fall (like tulips) — you plant them several inches below the ground. They actually need the cold and dark to prepare. They require months of this “shoring up” to be able to bloom in the spring. From the outside, the bulb looks as inactive and dormant as the winter trees. But in a few months from now, a green shoot will burst from that bulb and give way to most beautiful burst of color.
Are we as human beings so different? Could our burst of color reflect the internal work we do in the dark spaces of our winters (whether we are really speaking about the winter season or just our figurative winters)?
The darkness and cold of winter compel us back into our homes. It is the perfect time to return to our relationships with those we share space and time. And quite frankly, it is also the ideal time to reflect on our relationship with ourselves. Winter provides us the perfect space to go inside ourselves. To process our experiences. To give them life and meaning. To grieve our losses or little deaths. To count what has been born in those empty places. To nurture these new births.
To treat winter like the season of spring or summer is to shortchange ourselves the opportunity to grow ourselves at our roots. We can sleep more, write more, meditate more, express more, rest more, enjoy soulful books or movies, take long walks, confide more in our trusted and wise confidants, listen to music that resonates and sustains–in short, we can nourish ourselves. Shore up. Tend to our inside places. And take stock.
It can feel scary to head into the darkness of ourselves. To examine beliefs that might be limiting how we love other human beings in our life. Or become more aware of how we value or do not value ourselves. We can feel our sadnesses thoroughly–they often point to what may be missing or what we truly yearn for. We may finally see how different patterns of negative behavior stem from unhealed childhood wounds or unhealthy relationships. How do we heal that which remains in the dark? If our deeper selves remain cloaked in the darkness, we live in an unaware state, and are controlled or burdened by unconscious thoughts.
We must be willing to face the dark. Period.
I wish you time to shore up. To feel and heal. To nourish yourself at your roots. Do not fear the darkness. It is where the wisdom of your story lies. Go deep. You are worth it.
I loved this, Margi. Beautiful. I’ve been having some of these same thoughts over the past few weeks, though they weren’t expressed as poetically as you did here. One winter ritual I’ve been enjoying is relaxing by a wood fire in the evenings. There’s something so primitive and so comforting about it. It’s good to be reminded that no matter how cold and bleak the world is, having a little warmth and light nearby is all we really need.
Margi, thank you for sharing these beautiful words. You’ve captured exactly how this winter of transitions and reflection are feeling for my family. It almost feels like we are in a hibernation together, gaining strength. Thank you for beautifully expressing it.
Thank you so much for this and the poem at the beginning.
Transitions are difficult, and sometimes full of grief.
I hope I can use this time to shore up; what a beautiful metaphor.
Lovely! I am one of those few people that love winter. Your words speak what it is I love about winter.
Yes, it seems cold and dark right now, in the depths of winter. But almost unnoticed by our human senses, a miracle is happening. Each day is one minute longer than the one before. One minute–it doesn’t sound like much. But a month of one minutes equals half an hour. Two months equals an hour. And suddenly it’s May, and the days are mild and the grass is greening and the flowers are everywhere. For now we, like the flowers, can slumber in peace. We know what awaits us.
I truly never leave comments on blog posts. But I really feel moved to thank you for your posts. You are so artfully and poetically spoken and share things in a way that moves me deeply every time. You posts call me to serious reflection and really inspire me to do and be better, more authentic, and more in touch with who I am and who I want to be. I need that kind of goodness in my life, especially right now. Thank you!
Thank you for reaching out with your responses. Andrew, I love the warmth and light of fires too. Something so comforting about them. Even candles make a difference in the morning and evening darkness for me. So nice to connect with you through the blog!
Chelle, Mary Grace, Ann, and Deeta–I appreciate hearing your insights and love for winter. Thank you for sharing them. Cami–I woke to your comment this morning. It warmed me up and made me smile.
Your comments allow me to continue to be brave and write and share!
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this. I often suffer from the winter doldrums and this new perspective is exactly what I needed.
So glad you found it helpful, Jerri!
Related, beautiful, and also relevant to those in transition: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1335772143115452&id=213407562018588&substory_index=0