darkness, and light

Within light there is darkness, but
do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light, but
do not look for that light.

~ zen quote ~

Settling in for a wait at the chiro's office, I grabbed a copy of the National Geographic and sat back to read the feature article: "Our Vanishing Night" It explores how man's desire and need for light had affected our lives, our reproduction, and that effect is spilling into the animal world, affecting migration, predatory patterns, and our relationship to darkness.

"Light is a powerful biological force", it said, birds get drawn to it and that resulted in heads-on collision onto buildings. Nocturnal animals are at higher risk of being preyed upon because man's urge to have light had resulted in them being more easily exposed to predators.

The presence of artificial light is affecting animals' breeding and migratory patterns, and not to their advantage. Turtle hatchlings are lost by the hundreds of thousands each year because they are confused by the artifical light source and lose their orientation, and thus lose sight of the ocean, where they need to go home to.

In humans, rates of breast cancer has been linked to nightime brightness of neighborhoods.

The article ended on a grave note- with our power to create light, we have forgotten the scale of our being; we have become blind to our place in the Universe... we think we have control, but in fact we may be wreaking havoc, upon our very own world.


I closed the magazine and thought of how light is so often over-rated. Overly esteemed. Overly yearned for. I pondered my evolving relationship with light and darkness...

When I was young, I was scared of the dark. I had to sleep with the light on. Then an adult will come and turn off the light after I have fallen asleep. My grandma had to come with me to use the toilet during the middle of the night, otherwise I would leave a whole trail of lights through the house.

Then, at some point, I finally awakened to the wisdom of my body and of Nature and I realized that my body needs the dark. It needed the dark to be fully rested. It needed the dark to repair itself. It needed the dark to regulate my biological rhythms. Light resembled noise to me at night. They were intrusive, talkative and annoying. At night, I needed the dark. Now I like to sleep under a thick blanket of darkness. It feels safe, and neccesary. And not just me. The plants too, and the animals. Everything needs the dark.

And then of course, once, I saw an entire sea of stars in a black sky. Enveloped by darkness, with no light trying to assert its presence, I felt I saw through and through galaxies and universes and witnessed every single star in my eyes, every single twinkle of light traveled from light years beyond to meet with my mundane being and I was bowed over. Totally humbled. Without the dark, no beauty; no gasping in the face of the power of what just is.


From the moment we learned that Ferdinand had died, it was darkness for me. The nurse dimmed the lights to give us privacy after the horrible news was announced. But I guess symbolically it was a pronouncement of our baby's fate, and a gesture of acknowledgment of how our lives had become from that moment forth- dark, gloomy, sad, oppressively sorrowful.

So often and so many times I have written of sitting in the dark, being in the dark. Strangled by the dark. Suffocated. Blinded. Trapped.

But I also found comfort in it.

The light was too piercing. The light, it represented blatant joy and insensitivy of the other. Like the friend who wrote me about her glorious day with her children, gallivanting with horses and singing to rainbows. That was a blinding light she sent me, piercing into my darkness, saying "Boo!" to me in the throes of my woes. It seemed to me she said, Look! I am in the light. Life is beautiful and gorgeous, can't you see?

And I pulled my blanket closer around me, shut my eyes to the glaring bright, and turned my face to the wall.


The thing is, I need both. Darkness, and light. They are inseparable, and essential.

Darkness is not forever, it will turn around and show its other face, the light.

But, to have darkness turn on its own time is different from me flicking on a light myself. Or someone swaying a kerosene lamp right in my face.

I have seen the light, I have.

It comes from the depths of darkness. It comes from the other pools of darkness. The light comes from fellow bereaved.

And therefore it was welcomed. That light is not glaring, loud or self-righteous. It had nothing to prove. That light, from fellow bereaved, is just the right glow. Like a warm, kind nod to me, acknowledging my grief journey and sometimes, just that, and it flickers off again. But I know then that I am not alone in the dark, and darkness cannot be forever.


To know that light will come again is important. Darkness is vital- for healing, for rest, for solitude and contemplation. For dreams and for beauty. Light provides something different. Like an exhale after a long holding in of the breath. A change in pace and rhythm. An opportunity to evaluate things in a different light.

We celebrate the Winter Solstice. We watch, as the days grow shorter and shorter, and the nights, longer and colder. We hold out till Winter Solstice, then, we turn off the artifical lights and throw a match into the fireplace, welcoming the light back, enjoying the blaze of warmth and glow while darkness still surrounds us. We go out in the cold dark night, bundled up but still feeling the nippy cold. We raised our heads and look to the dark sky, and over the horizon, wondering about the next new day.

This year, I want to sit and wait and watch the first sunrise after the longest night of the year. I want to see the first light come through; I want to witness that promise, for centuries, that the light shall return, even after the longest night. I need to see that the promise will be kept. I will watch the first light crack through the dark, and watch the embracing dance between dark and light as the long night gives way to the new day. I wish to see that intimate connection.


I need both: darkness, and light. They are essential to my being, important to my grief journey. In between are subtle nuances, but I shall not explain.

Photo by Nicholas Hughes, From Verse 1 of the series In Darkness Visible

I loved this photo, the works by this photographer. He seems to have found that transient time and place where darkness and light fuse seamlessly. They need to strike just the right balance as he releases the shutter... so we can see that darkness and light indeed do need each other, and with passion too.

Whatever you need this season, whether it is winter or summer for you now, I wish for you whatever you yearn for and whatever you need, to nourish yourself from the very depth. Be it light, be it darkness.