Though Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, doesn’t come for another three weeks, today I am really feeling that we are headed into the darkest time of the year. The transition to late fall in North Texas is usually marked by cold rains, and today I woke up to one of those rains. It falls gently at first, but then gets serious and becomes a deluge. Today’s deluge came when I was halfway between my car and the train platform, which meant I got a good soaking — all the way through my overshirt and to my skin, water standing in the soles of my shoes, my gym bag and messenger bag both having their “water resistant”-ness tested. It was not entirely pleasant to climb onto the train knowing I would have to sit and be damp for my 32 minute commute (though luckily I had a towel and dry clothes, as I had planned to go to the gym before work). And yet I couldn’t be too upset, because after a long late summer that has occasionally flirted with fall, I could finally feel the Wheel of the Year turn.
Winter Solstice, that long dark night which promises that the light will always return, has a special significance for me this year. The idea that the light — the light of the Sun, the light of hope, the light of love, the light of progress — can be reborn even when the encroaching darkness seems impenetrable is a powerful one, especially in times like these. A friend of mine who is a Christian minister was reflecting on the significance of Advent, which started last night — of the promise of Christ being reborn in even the darkest places, the places that seem most devoid of hope and love and life. I’d never thought of these two holidays quite like this before, though I’ve often thought about the parallels between Winter Solstice celebrations and Christmas celebrations (which do bring so much Northern European and Roman Pagan custom in, of course). Though we conceptualize it differently — I celebrate the Sun while she celebrates the Son — I strikes me that we are both waiting through these dark, cold(er), anxious days for the same thing. We are waiting for the spark that shows us that even the darkest night ends, even the darkest times pass, that even when we are groping our way through darkness and ignorance and fear, there is a light coming to show us the way.