The dark peeks around the corner and waits behind the door, and you can see the dark up in the sky almost every night, gazing down at you as you gaze up at the stars.
from The Dark
written by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little Brown and Company, 2013
This time of year, the dark really is all around. Here in northern Ohio, daylight hours are short. This week only a little over 9 hours, and on the wane as we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21.
Not too surprising, then, that festivals and feasts around this time of year revolve around light. Christmas lights immediately come to mind. Neighborhoods and public places are ablaze, some with restraint, and some with reckless abandon. A few streets away from me, a whole block of neighbors have their displays set to a radio station. You can tune in as you drive by, your heater on and windows closed. Each house is an extravagantly lit. Stars balance on rooftops, reindeer prance across lawns, and glass icicles drip from eaves and dormers. City police post temporary signs warning drivers not to stop. It would create a traffic jam on the small side street.
My Chanukah menorah holds eight candles all in a row (plus one that serves to light each of the others, sharing and increasing the glow). I light one on the first night of the holiday and one more each night until the whole cheerful row lights up the room. Once in a while one curious cat or another gets too close and singes a whisker or two. That doesn’t happen very often, though.
No one I know has shared their Kwanzaa celebration with me. I learned a little about it when I was working. I know the candles in the Kinara symbolize different principles of a good life including creativity, unity, and faith. Kwanzaa is a cultural, not religious, holiday. It begins the day after Christmas and ends on January 1.
The Scandinavian Feast of Juul is a preChristian holiday in honor of Thor, god of the sun. A log was lit, the fire a symbol of warmth and the certainty that the sun would return. Yule logs are probably a carryover.
Then there’s the whole contrast of light and darkness. Remember when you could tell the good guys from the bad guys in the old westerns? Their hats gave them away. Hollywood color-coded their motives and our fears.
Maybe it's not the dark we are really afraid of. Maybe we really have a more general fear of the unknown, what we can’t see or understand.
Lazlo, the main character in today’s quote, was not afraid of the dark. He went head-on to meet it on its own terms and discovered it wasn’t so scary after all. He is courageous, not foolhardy. Brave, with a drop of skepticism. Practical, with a touch of wonder.
Like a good journalist or detective or public investigator, he lights up dark corners with knowledge, facts, and experience. He carries a flashlight into the dark.
What he discovers will not be scary.
-—stay curious! (and unafraid)