We are beginning to see the return of light to the land, more minutes every day creeping into our landscape, though the sun is still low on the horizon. I love the hush and quiet of winter, the soft sashay of falling snow, the joy of skiing on the frozen Eagle River. But the return of light, ever so gradual as we heave ourselves out of winter every year is like seeing this transition for the very first time…astonishing. So I will begin this post with a poem by C. Muchhala…
I am writing to tell you about the moths
battened on the windows;
Their dusty wings outline
in the absence of light,
Their furry bodies yearning for the glowing coals I tend.
Over time, they learn calm
Press warm and pulsing centers to the glass.
Be still, they seem to say.
Let light catch you.
Some never catch on
And beat their wings ragged.
When I was a little girl, about 8 years old, I was caught in an unexpected moment of radiance. My mother had packed me a sack lunch, and I crossed the schoolyard to a nearby woods to climb a towering old oak tree. The sky was gray and quiet. I climbed up to the highest branch, got comfortable, my back resting against the main trunk, and ate my lunch while savoring the wide flat landscape of my central Michigan home. I peered down at my girlfriend’s house, tucked neatly in a nearby subdivision. I could see my elementary school, and the steeple of St. Matthias Catholic church, where I attended mass every Sunday with my family.
I could see the tops of other trees, and thought about monkeys, how wonderful it would be to swing from tree to tree, observing all the action below. And then without warning, the tree started shaking as a sharp wind funneled around me and the leaves began twirling on their branches. I sat erect and gripped the trunk, afraid. And in the next moment, another surprise. Sunlight burst through the clouds and poured through the foliage. I felt the warmth on my face and arms, and I remember laughing out loud at the sudden strangeness of this event.
As an adult, I often find myself looking for the light, sometimes while in search of shadows. While visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, I woke early one morning and drove up to Hyde Park just to see how the light danced on the adobes, how the golden glow of dawn created shadows on the smooth rounded corners of the clay buildings. And after dark one night, I went on a search, alone, for the great Rio Grande River gorge. With directions from the innkeeper at the hostel, I set out in my rented car, descending rapidly from the mesa, and wound through narrow dusty roads bordered heavily with sagebrush. With windows rolled down, I savored the sweet smells of sage, pinon, and pine in the dusty air. Gradually, the route began to climb up again. I drove on, twisting and turning up the narrow rutted road until I heard the murmur of rushing water. I had found the gorge. Standing in its mist, that small fear of the night that often hangs in the background of my mind was dispelled. Again the light caught me; the moon’s light so brilliant that the rocks and river shone like polished silver.
Maybe we don’t have to search for the light; maybe all we have to do is remain open and aware of its presence, even in the depths of winter. I have a dear friend who actually considers herself a “lightworker”. Everywhere she goes, and whomever she meets, she first sees the dwelling of divine light, in all things and in all people. That is her habit of focus. What a wonderful way to view life, as though you worship and revere all that is given, like the tiny mustard seed of faith shining even in one’s darkest moments.