as the roof of the house, and as smooth and
cold as the windows, and even though the dark
was right next to Laszlo, the
voice seemed very far away.
from The Dark
by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little, Brown, and Company, 2013
No monsters hid under my bed when I was small. They weren’t in the closet, either. I was not afraid of the dark, then. I’m not afraid of the dark, now. I actually like the quiet, stillness of early mornings. I wait as long as I can to snap on the light. It blares out, “Rest is over! Get to work!”
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter will begin on December 21, when the sun will shine directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. In my part of Ohio, the sun will rise at 7:44 and set at 4:57, giving us just short of 15 hours of darkness.
Lots of expressions revolve around darkness, most of them equating darkness with something evil or frightening. If we are in the dark, we don’t understand. When we take a shot in the dark, we depend on luck to reach our goals. A dark horse is an unlikely winner. Whistling in the dark is hoping for an improbable result.
Sometimes people are suspicious of darkness: black cats, the darkness before dawn, secrets. The darkness in our souls or hearts is never good. Joseph Conrad wrote a whole book about that. We shine a light on a subject to learn more about it, or bring it into sharper focus, to understand it better.
When Martin Luther King said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars,” he implied that only if we are in a place of suffering can we find our way out. This is helpful, indeed, but, for me, a little negative.
Anne Frank said, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Perception is important, here. She was in probably the darkest place on Earth during our planet’s darkest hours. But she remained positive. Only when we define our problems, can we work toward solutions. I think working toward our goals is the key to optimism.
This time of year, we light candles to stave off darkness. Chanukah candles, Christmas lights, the Kinara of Kwanzaa.
I will light my candles because it is my tradition. I will enjoy their beauty, shining in their darkness.
But I will also enjoy my quiet time on dark, Winter mornings, before I get to work.