Longest Night

I started to write last night about Winter Solstice and words and particularly the word “invitation,” which I’ve been mulling over for the past year. I wrote about how that word prodded me to try new things, sometimes small and silly, sometimes brave. Often memorable.

But then tonight came. 

That night you thought you would go out with friends, dance your way into the longest night.

And instead you find yourself caught off guard by grief you thought you’d buried. By dreams that are disappearing and you thought you’d accepted that but the tears tell you, no. That yearning remains.

And somehow it seems fitting to feel all these things on the longest night … a night in Anchorage that includes more than 18 and a half hours of darkness.

I’m familiar with long, deep nights … I’ve walked as a chaplain with many a family through hours that are both endless and far too brief. Heard the stories, witnessed the tears, shared unexpected laughter amidst grief.

There are no guarantees about the shape of the light that will come. I don’t find hope right now in expectations of a specific wish to be granted. There are not always happy endings and sometimes we simply grieve and let go.

But somehow I do trust that the light returns.

In her Blessing for the Longest Night, Jan Richardson offers the reminder that

This is the night

when you can trust

that any direction

you go,

you will be walking

toward the dawn.

And in the meantime, I light the candles. I sit by the fire. I brew tea. I hold the space. And wait for the light.

Today it comforts me to know

That at this very hour

When nature falls ‘neath winter’s power

The Sun begins her midwife’s task

Of birthing bud from sleeping flower.

–Bert Bokern, Holden Village

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