(This is late, but some Mysteries take a little longer to live than others.)
The Welsh Druid tradition calls the midwinter solstice Alban Arthan, the “Light of the Earth.” The sun shines upon us, illuminating our darkness. But there is another light, what remains when there is no other light, the light that is with is us when all other brightness is stripped away.
A year ago, during a heavy downpour, I put on my black hooded-sweatshirt, hefted my rucksack upon my back, and stepped out into a cold night, walking away from my home and the man who had been my lover for three years. I have known no darker night than that one. I wasn’t “kicked out;” rather, I’d made the decision that, since he and I were “over” and he had nowhere else to go at the moment, I would leave for awhile. I don’t know if it was selfless or selfish, whether there could have been something that might have been said that could have undone the end. Maybe, but that no longer matters.
I spent the next few weeks elsewhere, returning to my house when my former lover was not home (including when a lover of his was there, an arranged visit pre-dating our “end) in order to make him a Schwarzewalderkirche Torte (a Black Forest Cherry Cake) for his birthday, as I’d promised and it made no sense to reneg on this. I remember attempting to frost it through tears, and then he arrived, and we both tried to fix the mess I’d made of the chocolate whipped-cream frosting.
There is no bitterness here. In fact, if I’ve any reluctance to speak on such sorrow, it is only that it might seem to cast blame. Sometimes things don’t work, no matter how much effort you put into them. Sometimes things just are not good, and the good you try to make of it becomes an increasing sorrow, something which exhausts you, ebbs from you both your strength and your capacity for joy.
Into that cold, rainy night I tread, having no idea what had just happened, nor any clue what was about to. I’d had dreams before this time which had panicked me so much their brilliance brought me anguish.
A woman staring at me in reflection, her glance both stern yet patient, waiting for me to figure out something, to listen to her, to find out what it was she was trying to tell me.
And another dream, myself in a great host of people waiting at a gate. I needed only know a name to enter in, but I did not know that name. A rain had begun to fall, everyone was entering, but I could not yet. Someone in the throng took pity on me, noted my confusion. “I don’t know how to get in. What’s the passcode?” He smiled, nodding with the sort of kind understanding that makes you immediately trust a man. “Oh. It’s Brighid. You can tell by the way the rain is falling, and what is between the rain.”
It rained for weeks. One night I stood alone in a park at 3am, crying, talking to myself, composing what I’d say to my former lover if I could. The words wove a story I didn’t know to tell myself yet, one I’d spend the next 12 months attempting to tell.
Sometimes, I think, I had forgotten about that other light. When the world is bright, all becomes hued in vivid color even as the shadows lengthen. The glory of the sun defines us, delineates us more sharply from others. But in the darkness, in that other light, all is shadow. We are less different from the earth, less different from each other when undressed by silence and stillness. Shapes merge, coalesce, become all one in our unseeing. But we are still there, and there is the light of the earth, of us, of me.
A year ago, all was sorrow. There’s been little sorrow since, except that I maybe hadn’t noticed. One becomes so accustomed to struggle, so fortified against pain, so strongly defended against each new onslaught that one forgets why we struggled in the first place, what was hoped for at the end of the defenses. I say “one,” but I really mean “me.”
You maybe don’t know me, yet. When I started writing this blog, everyone who read it knew me. It was kind of them to read me then, though I did not always say things all that well and at least some of them read me out of sympathy, for they knew I’m the sort of person who likes to be read. Now it seems most of the people reading this have never met me, and I haven’t met you.
Watch this with me. There’s a stranger in it, some guy you’ve probably never met, some guy I didn’t know existed. It’s me, it would seem, the me that isn’t fortified against sorrow. The me who thinks maybe it’s okay to laugh again. The me that walked out into a cold rain and then decided to study druidry and uproot himself from a city he’d known for 13 years and wander around ancient standing stones and paths to try to find those goddesses who’d been beckoning him past all the sorrow, waiting patiently past my bulwarks and fortifications to see if I might finally see what they had to say.
That gate I thought I was trying to enter? It was actually the gate out.
That darkness in the middle of winter? It’s actually the light of the earth.
(a word of thanks to T. Thorn Coyle for reminding me what springs from stone and what alights there.)