This morning I was making coffee in the kitchen when I heard Ethan flipping light switches in the next room. A little bit later he came to the kitchen and grumbled, “These lights are weird. I can never figure out which switch turns on which light.” My thoughts EXACTLY.
Recently I’ve noticed my irritation when all too often I flip a switch and get no light. I walk a few steps to a different switch and flip it only to produce light in a totally different part of the room. So then I walk across the room and try again with a different switch. Now the light that I’ve just turned on goes dark. And I still don’t have the light I wanted. Every once in a while, I get lucky and the lightbulb I want comes on with my first flip of a switch, but more often I give up in exasperation and just carry on, using whatever light is available.
Why – after nearly 2 years of living in this apartment – don’t I know the switch-light relationships?!? And then I realized, it’s because I go for days, weeks, months without using them! Living at this latitude means we have a long stretch of summer days and nights where it never gets completely dark.
But in the rhythm of seasons, there comes time to pay the price for the seemingly endless summer light, and that time is now. We lost nearly 3 hours of daylight in September and we’re continuing to lose at a rate of about 5.5 minutes per day, on pace to lose another almost 3 hours in October. When we first moved to Anchorage from Oregon in the fall 2012, David made me a graph to compare our sunrise/sunset times with Portland. Right now we are sliding down maximum slope, straight into the deep dark, cold winter and I feel dread rising. It started at the edge of a September sunset while I watched the sun slip behind the mountains, leaving glorious colors of sky to fade into the black of night. It dances with my memories in the chill air of season’s change.
Dark was once cancer in my brother’s body. Dark is death. The loss of a grandparent. A friend. A dream. Dark is a move miles and miles from home. It is marriage in turmoil. It is a miscarriage. Again. Dark is the loss of a job. A career. Uncertainty. It is pain. Dark is anger. Anguish. And grief. Dark is a broken body. In the hospital. Alone. At night. Dark is parenting in moments of fear. It is a lump. A test. A waiting room. Dark is the blank spots in my brain. The terrifying holes I fall in.
“I don’t want this winter!” I proclaim in futile protest. “I’m not ready. It’s too hard. Too cold. Too dark.”
But this evening I pull on my hat and my gloves. And walk into the fading light. I crunch through frosty leaves and icy puddles. Winter is coming. I can feel it. The deep, cold dark. I flip switches that may or may not produce the light that I want. And yet. In a Gospel of John + Barbara Brown Taylor mashup – these words: “There is a light which shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”
There is a light which shines in the darkness.
This is the light that I need.