Winter Solstice. Through the window, the skies are reluctant to wake, a feeling we know all too well. Nagged by the ticking of our internal clocks, we coax our bodies into coats, step out into all of it, scuttle pathways to work. During the lunch hour, if we’re lucky enough to lift our eyes from our phones, we notice the sky is blue and bright, as though the sun knows it only has so much time. After work, and the show is over, blanket of dark over everything, quieting some part of each of us.
This is it, the longest night. Everything led us here, fiery sunsets of July gradually giving way to modest midday surrender. The sun and the moon, constantly in chase of each other overhead, have unsteadied the dance. The moon pirouettes, reveling in the hard-won opportunity to revel, the sun a faraway spotlight. And here we wait, searching the sky for stars while we hold our breath.
Sit down at a table with every person I love, one on one. A series of coffee mugs lapsing from brimming to empty. Observe the wide array: dark humor, gentle conviction, resilient mischief, wild compassion, unapologetic bravado, fanged devotion. Sit with each of them for long enough to understand why I fell in love, and find a common denominator: a willingness to stay with somebody through the night.
Love is a thousand things. Love is forgiving a person for their hard edges, searching for their magic in the days of their mess. Love is showing up for somebody on confetti shower days and then again on the nights they’ve been torn to pieces and tossed to the ground. Love is baring your scars to another person, taking the wild risk of being seen, seeing them in return, nodding. Love is a thousand things, and one thing at the same time: staying, day or night, mess or magic, breakthrough or broken.
If I’m honest, most of the nights in my life have felt manageable. I’m long-practiced in the art of finding stars, believing in the sunrise, breathing through the night. But some nights –– coming out to my family, breaking somebody else’s heart, discovering a lover had packed up his life while I plotted our future –– the moon seemed unwilling to surrender her stage.
Thank God, the universe, and everything for people who stay.
In the daytime, under a bright, blue sky, opportunity feels infinite. Beneath the blanket of night, however, striking out in pursuit of adventure becomes a rebellious endeavor. More nights than not, we find ourselves in the lamplight of home.
We surrendered the daylight hours, our window for adventure, to answering emails and making small talk before and after meetings. And, here, we can read or watch Netflix or play video games or peruse our phone for connection or or or, but our minds tend to wander our focus away from all this. What to do with all this night.
Assume, for a moment, that there’s a reason for the rhythm of the planet. That our lives were meant to have seasons, rainstorms were sent to beckon us indoors, and months of early night were designed for us to flourish. If this is so, what do all these dark days slip into our pockets, whisper to us as we’re saying goodbye and headed for the door?
Perhaps there’s a reason the darkness pulls our minds away from opportunity and adventure. Maybe we’re not meant to swim, splashing water up and away from the surface, but instead to dive down. Hold our breath and look around, through ripples of water, at the things we’ve been carrying beneath the surface.
Old wounds and hopes, each bringing us comfort and pain alike. People we meant to let go, but we’ve been cradling them here, all the while. Dreams we dare not speak aloud, because what if we’ve no business believing them, but here they are among the ocean floor, roots having stubbornly taken hold. Love we’re uncertain about expressing, forgiveness waiting until we’re ready. All of it, patient and steady and present in the midst of all our bustling, but we’re only noticing it now.
And here we are, the darkest days. The sun is coming, the dance slowly shifting back in favor of light. We can wait it out, stay with each other and watch the horizon. Hold our breath and believe in brighter days. But, if we embrace it, welcome the darkness around our limbs like a winter coat, we can untangle some of the knots we picked up during all our reckless revelry. In the lamplight, hands shaking, we can write ourselves love letters, or treasure maps, or fortunes, or apologies –– anything our hearts might need our eyes to find when the light stages its return.