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Gifts of darkness

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

AT RIGHT – Eily Marlow believes that reclaiming darkness is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
In mid-January, daylight lasts only nine hours and 15 minutes in the Twin Cities. That means we experience almost 15 hours of darkness every 24 hours. While this can be hard for some people, especially those with seasonal depression, Midway resident Eily Marlow believes that time spent in the dark can be regenerative.
The ordained Presbyterian minister led a day-long retreat at the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery last month called “Reclaiming Darkness.”
“In the workshop,” she said, “participants explored their preconceptions about darkness.” After an opening meditation, Marlow and co-presenter Kiely Todd-Roska asked, “How do we learn to walk with courage in the dark? What practices and rituals can we cultivate to increase our comfort with darkness?”
Marlow shared some of the ideas around engaging seasonal darkness that she and her spouse Mary have tried with their two elementary school-aged children. She said, “When our daughter turned five, she asked to have an in-the-dark party for her January birthday. Candles and sparklers made her party special. We also like to string holiday lights in our kids’ bedrooms, and leave the overhead lights off as much as possible. This creates a magical atmosphere in the long winter months.”
She continued, “Mary and our daughter often sleep out on the porch in the winter months to enjoy the fresh air and darkness: it’s sort of like winter camping, but they use an electric blanket.”
Marlow and her family have found several ways to be sociable, and safe, outside in the dark. All four of them enjoy pajama walks to a park near their Midway home. Marlow said, “The kids love to run through the ball field in every season. No matter what time of year, these walks give us a chance to observe the moon in its different phases – and to be together after dark.”
>> from 1 The Hamline Midway Coalition held a Winter Solstice Celebration on Dec. 20 at Newell Park with live music, hot cocoa and cider, chili cook-off, sledding, and bonfire. Marlow was there with her family and said, “Being in the dark with friends and neighbors can inspire a different sense of connection and community.”

 

Invite darkness into your home joyfully
Our lives are filled with artificial lights from overhead, and also from electronic devices. Here are some suggestions for inviting darkness into your home joyfully in the winter months:

•If time and money allow, cook warm, aromatic soups, stews, and breads.
• Before bedtime, avoid using your phone or social media.
• Try having zero light in your bedroom when it is time to sleep. Cover your digital alarm clock with a book or magazine.
• Take unhurried baths and naps without guilt. Our bodies need more rest and relaxation at this time of year.
• Observe the phases of the moon, and recognize that we all have seasons of waxing and waning.
• Light candles and enjoy watching them burn.
• Consider your attitude toward darkness; is it positive or negative? If negative, is it based on real or imagined experiences?

Winter is a time when the natural world slows down. In Minnesota, bears, bats, bees, and chipmunks are among the many creatures that hibernate in dark, cozy places. Perennial plants and trees go into dormancy, using stored resources to survive the cold winter months. If you (or your family) have ways of unpacking the gifts of darkness, please consider sharing them with fellow Monitor readers. Email your ideas to editor/publisher Tesha M. Christensen at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

 

A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark
by Jan Richardson (abridged and used by permission)

Go slow if you can.
Slower. More slowly still.
Friendly dark or fearsome,
this is no place to break your neck
by rushing, by running,
by crashing into what you cannot see.
Then again, it is true:
different darks have different tasks,
and if you arrived here unawares,
if you have come in peril, or in pain,
this might be no place you should dawdle.
I do not know what these shadows ask of you,
what they might hold that means you good or ill.
It is not for me to reckon whether you should linger
or you should leave.
But this is what I can ask for you.
That in the darkness there be a blessing.
That in the darkness there be a welcome.
That in the night you be encompassed
By the Love that knows your name.


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