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  • catherine stemper

Darkness is Cheap

Happy Solstice Everyone! May the return of the light begin! I have lived in the PNW for almost 30 years now, most of my adult life. The darkness of winter started to affect me a few years after I moved here. I actively work to maintain my mood during the winter. The sun does not come up very high over the horizon at this time of year, and even then, it is often cloudy if not raining, and in the mid thirties or forties, ugh. I once heard a Russian fairy tale explain that the clouds gather now to protect our eyes from the low sun of winter. The winter sun has a very annoying way of shooting right into one's eyes, between the trees, under the brim of one's hat or car visor.


While enjoying "A Christmas Carol" recently, a phrase rang in my ears as precise genius: "Darkness is cheap." Dickens was describing Scrooge as he walked through his house upon returning from work in the evening. I let that sink in for a few days. I love when genius falls on me like that. When some idea, creation, takes root in my thoughts and blooms throughout my daily experiences. It is hard for me to embrace the darkness. Thinking of the dark as cheap gave it a facet that was also so primordial, so true, so real, so ordinary. It also gave me a counterpoint. If darkness is cheap, and so abundant in this latitude, how can I learn to cherish it? Taking a cue from Buddha, "Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have." Cultures that live above the 45th parallel have developed ways to embrace and enjoy the dim days of winter. I have adopted many practices from those cultures, celebrating the dark with man made lights of all sorts. Or taking the time to really enjoy the very long twilights or "blue hours" when the sky has this amazing vibrant purple blue glow against the warm glow of lamps, candles, and hearths. Sit still, enjoy the time to do things like reading a book, making music, writing, or knitting, using one's hands and mind together. The sun is low, but the moon is high in the sky at this time. Watching it in clear skies or cloudy is very enjoyable. The lack of color that depresses me makes me admire structure and form more, silhouette and skeleton are the interest when colors are muddy and dull. So many ways to enjoy the dim and the dark, I almost look forward to it now.


I hope everyone has a lovely and abundant holiday. May the New Year be filled with happiness and prosperity. Thank you to everyone who has helped me on my journey, I am truly grateful.



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