This month, when acquaintances and clerks and baristas asked, “Are you doing anything special for the holidays?” I replied, “I’m doing nothing.” If they assumed that that was a sad, or lonesome, or irreligious state, I might add, “I love being in the dark time of year, and I don’t want to lose a moment of it to the hustle and glitter and parties, and hours in the kitchen. So I’m doing nothing, just being fully in the dark and quiet.” And they’d nod as if they understood, but I’m not sure they did.

 

For me, and for many of my friends, this year has seemed particularly dark – meteorologically, physically, politically, ecologically. And it seems to me that if that’s the hand we’ve been dealt in 2019, we’d be wise to study our cards carefully to see what patterns of meaning they hold. We’d be wise to discern how best to play those cards, for the greatest good of all. That discernment requires a time of damping down sensory input for a while. The dark time of year is a natural time to do that.

Or here’s a different metaphor, one that feels just right on the drizzly day I’m writing this: A few times in my life I’ve swum in the softness of a freshwater lake in the darkness of a midwestern summer night. It felt as if the gentle enfolding water recognized itself in me. I lost all sense of limitations; there were no boundaries between the water and my body.

That’s what being fully in the dark time feels like in these final days of this year: letting go, opening up, expanding, merging with something benevolent that is more than myself. I do not want to be distracted from that commingling. And so, for the holidays, I am doing “nothing.”

Gradually, as the tilt of the earth’s axis brings a few minutes more of light to each day, I’ll clamber out of the dark time. I’ll enter spring, the beginning-again time, happily christened with a new appreciation of connectedness and possibility.