Into the dark

Heads down to the shortest day. Nine more days, then the light levels will start to lift again.

I can’t wait.

I remember reading something by Monty Don, the gardener, a few years ago. He wrote about the difficulty of gardening in that October – December slot, the time of shortening days.

(There is the dreich-er kind of comment that can be made after June 21, that ‘the nights are turning in again’. I choose not to go there. Not in June, for goodness’ sake.)

Anyway, I’m with Monty on this one. I find the whole descent into the dark difficult, though that difficulty can vary year by year, depending on what I’m doing.

In this current season, it’s working better for me. Yes, I get the kids up most mornings, but it is light before they leave the house for school.

I get my hit of daylight mid afternoon, at school pickup – and potentially at other times of the day too, on bright days. I’m not tied to a computer monitor these days – I can stop to soak it in.

So all that helps. As does a quick belt round the park before school comes out. But still.
It’s dark out there, folks. I feel the need to hibernate more as the month goes on.

Some days I get a bit of extra sleep – and yet I still want more sleep, in December. That has been a clear message this month.

So what to do in the dark times – in the belly of the beast, as it were?

Feed yourself. Grow stronger on the inside.

I’m finding myself remembering old favourite blogs, picking them out again, catching up with what the authors have been doing.

All that colouring is taking a back seat at the moment to reading, and that’s fine.

It may be dark here, but on the other side of the world, it’s summer. I can read posts about what is growing in an Australian back garden, or about whale watching off the Southern Cape.

If I want some perspective, I can read blogs where the writers are into their four- or five-month-long snow on the ground time of year. North-Eastern US, Canada, Alaska, and so on.

To be honest, it’s not about the vicarious travelling (though that can help when the dark mornings bring on more than a hint of Groundhog day here). It’s about the words.

It’s no surprise that storytelling comes up as a way of dealing with the dark. We make sense of our feelings about this time of being kept inside.

Drawn into an interior space through cold and dark, we find our way back into the wider world through stories. Memories. Recipes. (And I’m enjoying how much those food writers can write well as well as eat well.)

For the first time in years, I’m borrowing more library books than the kids.

That’s partly about them both being in school – and me having some more time to read.

But I have put down the colouring pens for a bit in favour of stories. Particularly science fiction of various kinds.

Some of it lighter, some of it more philosophical. Much of it genuinely page-turnable.

I’ve pulled the actual cookbooks off the shelves too. Maybe it’s a need for stews, soups, foods that warm you up just by reading about them. (I’m not against cooking some of them either.)

I’ve never got around to trying out daylight lamps, to help with the growing dark. I guess I’ve sought out other means of adding some light.

And of course, there are those ceremonies of light that come at this time of the year: Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, and so on.

They remind us that light can follow dark; sometimes, that light is still there, even when the darkness is particularly overwhelming.

I went into this season hoping, in part, that my own words would come up for air again. That some of them might have ripened in the cellar; might even have transformed into something new.

Not quite yet. But then maybe there is a need for some of that dark. It gets our backs up against the wall.

It forces us to say what is necessary – and, also, what we long for to change.

And that, as my science fiction reading is showing me, is powerful stuff.