Today on the winter solstice, I’m dwelling on darkness.
Beyond the window where the reflection of Christmas lights twinkle (my partner Benjamin is big on gemütlichkeit, the German word for festive coziness), the light has already faded. It’s around 4.30 pm. I often find the transition of the seasons difficult, with the fading light and coming of the endless rain; this year, I procured a SAD lamp to help ward off the blues that always accompany winter grey. But I’ve been anticipating the solstice with a widening inner posture and an opening heart.
I’m part of a lovely collective of comrades and spiritual kinfolk comprising the Geez Magazine Board, and at our most recent meeting, Lydia, the editor, shared delight at how her children are falling in love with darkness. In this season of lengthening nights, her kids will run into the evening darkness of parks and fields, arms outstretched and unafraid. I adore this image. I can picture them glowing with the confidence of fireflies, navigating the darkness with the same playful ease. How much we have to learn from the little ones in our midst.
I’ve been reading Holding Change by adrienne maree brown, and in it she paraphrases a translation of the Tao Te Ching: “if you trust the people, they become trustworthy.” I think, in this season of Advent, falling in love with darkness is a similar invitation. So often darkness becomes a signifier for all that we fear and reject: whether it be in our own consciousness, or our shared prayers, readings, songs, and liturgies. We deem darkness untrustworthy and negative, or at the least, as incomplete. But this projection of otherness onto darkness does not only reinforce colonial binaries and anti-Blackness, it strands us in a scarcity of imagination. Darkness is not absence of light, but its own presence. And God—The Divine, Creator, Spirit, however you name her—meets us here too, in the dark.
Advent is a season of waiting, but the waiting is itself an act of intimate encounter. It is a gorgeously liminal and tender season of chosen constraint, rife with feeling and stitched through with yearning. (This is why, to me, Advent and Lent are the queerest liturgical seasons. But that’s another blog post.) It is a season of contradiction: a questing and questioning time (who are you waiting for? what are you waiting for? how are you waiting?) as much as a nurturing and nesting time. It’s reassuring to me, the resonance with uncertainty and desire and dis/comfort, all at once. What better season to hold us, heavy with pandemic fatigue and climate crisis, bruised or numb with grief, surprised by sudden and stubborn joys?
Saint bell hooks (rest in power) said that “the moment we choose love, we begin to move towards freedom.”
Darkness over the surface of the deep: vibrating in creative possibility, ripening into being. Darkness not devoid but terra confersus: abounding and alivefull, everything already there, ready.
Darkness as sweetness spilling—aromatic, earthy, wild—like black sesame bursting from winter tang yuan. Like vanilla, ancient and uncolonized medicine, flowering lush in three years, only after the pollinating kiss of a hummingbird or bee. Darkness as embodied pleasure, revelatory, worshipful.
Darkness as inky bathyal zone, beyond the reach of sunlight, where swim entire eyeless ecosystems. Squid, octopuses, and whales traverse in silent symphony. Heat and minerals bubble from below. Life unfurls in the dark.
Darkness as the canopy of eyelids when we close our eyes, resting in the home of our body. Darkness as sleep, relinquishing the day. Darkness as trust in enoughness.
Darkness as invitation to live well with other created and creative beings: slower, quieter, shorter days. Intimacy with the seasons, the curve of our earth, the movement of the planet. Darkness as elemental force, roaring against capitalist doctrines of bottomless productivity and the relentless taxidermy of time. Darkness as a return to breath. Darkness as dance, primordial intuition.
Darkness as inkling, flutter in the body before emotion and thought, deepest form of knowledge. What wonders, when we learn to listen.
Darkness as womanist wisdom, all the Black and brilliant threads woven into Wil Gafney’s women’s lectionary. All the saints and ancestors who sang, fought, taught, resisted, and created new worlds with the Word of their body made flesh: Harriet, Fanny, Audre, Marsha, bell. Darkness as all melanin-blessed poets and prophets, unruly agitators who, to the emperors and politicians who tell a single story, say no. Let there be. (And there is.)
Darkness as invisible, mysterious, incontrovertible matter moving the universe. Darkness as multiversal magnitude and minute inner intricacies, circling in and under our own skin. Darkness as all we contain and all that contains us. Darkness itself Divine.
embracing darkness: a prayer for Advent
born under the shadow of empire,
child of refugees and survivor of genocide:
Abide with us in darkness.
Encounter us in creaturely corners
where grass stirs and animals huddle,
beyond the glow of palace and parliament
where bleeding bodies are birthing new life.
Lead us deeper into labyrinths of unknowing
where we wait, like garlic planted, for the right season—
to take root and rest, to lift our heads and rise.
Help us embrace darkness as the evening encircles us,
with careful constancy, always returning.
Help us hold the presence of darkness with open hands,
without fear, welcoming all that is intangible and unseen:
the heft of each feeling, holy.
The minerals and microbes, magic.
The saints and ancestors who guide us,
the sleeping soil, the interconnected space between us,
all sacred. All wondrous.
O Darkling Divine Source,
Turn us towards tending and tenderness.
Tune us towards the jazz of your justice.
Even as we watch for the light,
let us find your Spirit rustling in darkness,
let us canopy others seeking sanctuary,
let us roost with feathered hope.