On the beach at ebb tide, in this moment of darkness, there is no moon and no fanfare. Look into the wet sand as the wave retreats. In the starlight, watch the water drain from around each tiny grain as the sea runs back into herself. Notice the stars reflected in the wet sand, a light you would never see at a brighter time.
What else might I not be seeing?
What other lights are within me?
photo credit: ‘The beach at Tjørnuvík, Faroe Islands’ cc 2008. by Hans Juul Hansen
Today is the day all these giddy glorious spring days have been leading up to, the Longest Day. It’s the day all those bird-serenaded dawns that lured you from your bed at a ridiculous hour have been heralding. Longest day, and shortest night.
And so begins the lengthening nights, at first just seconds longer, but now we count the days toward winter. I know that often non-Pagans find this attention to the cycle cruel, a downer, focusing on the Dark Side. Well, yes. Not evil or the devil, just the Night that follows Day, the dark that follows light. The contrast that makes the world spin. The op-ed Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark from Akiko Busch in the New York Times says it more eloquently than I:
IN mid-June, the twilight seems to go on forever, the sky awash with translucent shades of rose, pearl, gray. These are evenings of enchantment — but also of apprehension. The moment the sun reaches its farthest point north of the Equator today is the moment the light starts to fade, waning more each day for the following six months. If the summer solstice doesn’t signal the arrival of winter, surely it heralds the gradual lessening of light, and with that, often, an incremental decline in disposition.
It is easy to associate sundown with melancholy, to believe that temper can be so closely tied to degrees of illumination. The more floodlit our nights, the more we seem to believe that a well-lit world is part of our well-being. But equating the setting of the sun with that of the spirit may be misguided, at variance with some essential need humans have for darkness and shadow.
In his book, “The End of Night,” Paul Bogard notes that two-thirds of Americans no longer experience real night. “Most of us go into the dark armed not only with ‘a light,’ ” he writes, “but with so much light that we never know that the dark, too, blooms and sings.”