Yesterday was the darkest day of the year. The sun rose at 7:16 am and set at 4:12 pm offering less than nine hours of sunlight to the village of Andover. Living in northern New England we are used to this physical darkness, and learn to cope with it by embracing the outdoors (read more about that here). But this year is different as the emotional darkness of a global pandemic matches the physical darkness of the Winter Solstice.
This season will bring more mixed emotions than holiday seasons of the past. We find ourselves simultaneously holding contradictory truths in our lives: COVID-19 has complicated our life unlike any other time / COVID-19 has simplified our life unlike any other time. We have never been more thankful for the privilege we have / We have never been more challenged by the privilege we have. These are the darkest days of the year / A light is brightest during the darkness. Both statements are true. Both are real. Both weigh on our hearts, as we seek to celebrate holidays with our families, while mourning alongside the thousands of families who are experiencing loss right now.
December is a month of anticipation as we await the Winter Solstice and its paradox of light and darkness. The deep blue and purple of late-afternoons transition to pitch black skies before dinner is served. But today that waiting ends. The days will begin to get longer. Little by little. The sun will set a minute later today than it did yesterday. And this is how we move from darkness to light. Incrementally. One step at a time.
A single candle can be seen at distances of over 1.5 miles by the unaided eye on a clear, moonless night. A single candle. Right now, it feels as though we are in the midst of pure darkness: isolation, economic strain, illness, fear, uncertainty. And yet we have the opportunity to be that candle in the distance, to break the darkness, to shine our own little light in our corner of the world.
While the physical darkness of this season will give way to light, the metaphorical darkness will likely linger a bit longer. We must remind ourselves that darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. In our darkest days, our darkest hours, we can contribute to the disappearance of darkness in our own lives and in the lives of others by making sure we light our own candle. And little by little, as we pass the light to others, the darkness will be replaced by light.
May this holiday season be one in which you experience light. Happy Holidays from all of us at Proctor!