Two Poems To Celebrate The Darkness

We have just passed the longest night of the year. And this morning I woke before dawn and watched as the light began to illuminate the clouds. With every moment, the sunrise became more beautiful, and by the time I left for my Saturday morning hike, the sky looked very much like this photograph.

(I grumbled for a moment after running inside to find my camera and coming up empty handed. But I quickly decided I was meant to enjoy the coming of the light without distractions).

Last night, after I put Ella to bed, I was thinking about the Solstice and this dark time of year. With all the attention on Christmas and Chanukah and New Year’s Eve, the significance of the Solstice can easily be overlooked and forgotten.

It often feels as if we have pushed darkness from our lives. Even the darkest nights are filled with the glow of digital clocks and night lights. And when we wake in the dark of the morning, the first thing we do is turn on the light.

This pushing away of the external darkness reflects a similar pushing away of the inner darkness. But it is within that darkness that we find our greatest gifts. Jung said that our “gold” waits within the shadow. In order to find and claim those gifts we must be willing to enter the shadow.

So to honor this time of year I thought I would share two of my favorite poems about darkness: Poems that remind us of the power and beauty contained in the dark.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light,
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Wendell Berry

Have you ever noticed a sense of relief and excitement during a power failure? Have you ever let yourself settle into that deep darkness that descends when the flashlights are turned off and the last candle is blown out?

I think our bodies crave that deep natural darkness: The kind of darkness you get on a cloudy, moonless night in the mountains. The kind of darkness you get sleeping in the deep forest. The kind of darkness you get when the power goes out.

The kind of sweet darkness that most of us no longer experience.

Sweet Darkness:

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

~ David Whyte ~

So while we are in this dark time of year, and even as we now move towards the time of light, can you go into the dark? Can you turn off the flashlights, blow out the candles and step into the darkness without light? There is treasure in that darkness. There are gifts that you will not find in the light. But when you find them, you can bring them into the light, and share them.

Photo Credit: Before Sunrise by Algo.

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      10 Responses to “Two Poems To Celebrate The Darkness”

      1. Raymond on December 22nd, 2007 11:45 pm

        Hi Ed,

        Thanks for sharing the wisdom of darkness. 🙂

        I never thought of that.

      2. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on December 23rd, 2007 8:58 am

        Edward, as a child I loved to be enfolded by the beauty of a dark night. It felt almost like a dear friend holding me in her arms. Krishna energy which I sometimes experience in meditation is also the most beautiful cloak of blackness. Have you ever experienced a black that was so intense that you could almost see the Light?

      3. Aaron Simmons on December 26th, 2007 7:02 am

        An interesting article. I don’t know that I’ve run across this discussion of the need for darkness before.

        And yet, it rings true with me — my favorite kind of weather is an overcast day with no wind. It seems to press its stillness into the air and creates an odd sense of sense. It’s a sense of calm that you just don’t get when lying in a field under the sunlight.

      4. Alex Blackwell on December 27th, 2007 4:47 pm

        Beautiful post Ed – thank you for sharing. You are correct, too often we fill the darkness with light. Instead, we should embrace the darkness and see what beautiful gifts come our way.

      5. Mark on December 29th, 2007 6:57 am

        An excellent reflection on darkness. There is truly gold to be found in the shadows.

      6. Louise Aspden on December 29th, 2007 7:33 am

        Beautiful. I live in a rural, wooded area. I love the dark moonless nights here. I get frustrated with other properties around that insist on keeping yard lights on all night long. I also get frustrated with clients who fill their lives with stories and business so they don’t have to look at their darkness. They deny themselves part of the beauty of life.

        As a life coach I have found the greatest coaching moments are when a client can sit with their darkness and look at it in greater detail than they have ever allowed themselves to do. That is when they learn to let it go and move on. I love those moments.

        With gratitude…

      7. jen_chan, writer on December 30th, 2007 2:20 am

        I couldn’t have agreed with you more. Not all people appreciate the darkness. More often than not, darkness is attrobuted to all the negative things in the world. It’s nice to read something written in an angle such as yours.

      8. Edward Mills on December 30th, 2007 2:52 pm

        Patricia: Such beautiful language! Yes, I’ve felt that deepest darkness that seems to open into the light. It’s a reminder of the Yin/Yang and the awareness that within the darkness lies the seed of the light and vice versa.

        Aaron: I find peace in the sunlight as well. But it is a different type of calm. For me, the calm that comes in the sunlight is more active and external, whereas the calm from a dark, foggy day is more introspective.

        Alex and Mark: Thank you both for adding your beautiful affirmation to this idea.

      9. Edward Mills on December 30th, 2007 3:06 pm

        Louise: We moved into town a couple of years ago and I still miss the darkness of the rural area where we used to live. (Although I do love being able to walk into town). And I, too, have had neighbors with bright lights that fill the night.

        And if you’re open to a Law of Attraction based observation, read on: I also used to get frustrated with clients who were not willing to explore their inner darkness. (I still do once in a while). But at some point I realized that my frustration and especially expressing that frustration was only attracting more clients like that.

        When I let go of my judgments and “shoulds” about people’s path of personal growth, I found that I started attracting many more people who were ready and wanting to explore that darkness.

        And, after all, I spent much of my life running away from my darkness. So who am I to tell anyone else how and when they should dive into their darkness?

      10. Edward Mills on December 30th, 2007 3:08 pm

        Jen: It’s true that we tend to put negative attributes onto the things that we don’t understand. And darkness – both inner and outer – is something we clearly don’t fully understand. So it is very easy to label it negative.

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