When I first learned to read I fell in love with the printed word. After that I devoured as many books as I could get my hands on. Like many children, once in bed at night after I was supposed to be sleeping, I hid under the covers and read by flashlight. If I woke up ahead of my parents as I often did, I did, I pulled up my shade for more light, or perhaps again used my flashlight. Reading wherever I was every chance I got, I accumulated knowledge and stimulated my imagination giving me a rich childhood and a good basis for expansion as I grew older. I still love to read however I no longer use a flashlight under the covers nor do I fear the approaching footsteps of a parent suspicious of my eagerness to go to bed.
As I have grown older, darkness has taken on more of an impact for me. The dark winter hours mean I sleep more, which is enjoyable. However, nowadays I need more light to see by. With the onset of Daylight Saving and then the Equinox that is on its way, I will enjoy the longer hours of light. I appreciate being able to see more clearly later and later in the day. Yet were it not for the contrast of darkness or the shadows cast by the light, it would be more difficult for me to perceive the size, shape, and outlines of objects around me. Also, without the dark hours of winter the trees and perennials would not get the rest they need to rebirth themselves in the spring. As do I, nature needs both to function properly.
Darkness is as necessary to us as light. It is what helps us define and manage the world around us. Early in their development as we attempt to shield our children from making mistakes we teach them about right and wrong. Sometimes this is a tricky proposition. As one of my teachers used to say, there are no absolutes. We teach our children and young adults not to kill or cause harm or hurt to others. But then they join the armed services and find themselves given a gun to aim at someone who is called the enemy. So in that instance killing is right or so they are told now. Could that have something to do with why so many individuals return from combat with troubled minds?
The Equinox presents us with equal hours for day and night. After March 20th the days will be longer than the nights until the process reverses with the Solstice in June. Meanwhile the world around us will begin to wake up from its long winter sleep in the dark. Balance in all things and the achievement of that balance is one of the important goals of the universal natural process of growth and decay. In addition we too participate in this process as we learn and grow, shining the light of our understanding on the darkness of ignorance. It is the contrast between them together with our moral compass that guides us toward the wholeness that is made up of both sun and shadow, darkness and light.
It as been my experience that many, if not most people would like to believe that spring consists entirely of balmy breezes and blossoming trees, along with pleasant showers that bring May flowers. Perhaps this is only their wishful thinking, yet it seems to prevail among people with whom I have casual conversations. A few days of delightfully warm weather and they are sure that spring has arrived. Then when the weather turns cold, as it may for at least six or more of the weeks of Spring, they say that winter has returned. Yet nature knows best. The cycle of gradual warming and cooling allows for trees, plants and animals to partake in their awakening process at their natural speed.
What people may not realize is that were it to become summery all at once, the natural world of plants, animals and even people would not be equipped to deal with that enormous influx of energy. Try plunging your hands into hot water when they are severely chilled. It’s painful. Victims of frostbite must be warmed up gradually. Our bodies need to get used to the change of the seasons also. Spring foods like asparagus and rhubarb are good for that.
It would be nice to think of the season of spring as entirely warm and pleasant. Yet it actually begins on the Equinox with equal hours of light and darkness. The gradual lengthening of light awakens the life energy in plants and animals. The hours of daylight have been increasing perceptibly since the beginning of February. Now we have reached the actual balance between the hours of dark and light. From now on, light is in the ascendance.
Living as we do in a world where electricity can turn night into day, we may not be as aware of the nurturing quality of darkness. I find I enjoy the dark hours as much as I do the light. While I love the light and appreciate the lengthening days of spring, I also remember with pleasure the snugness of the long winter’s nights and the coziness of the covers when it is dark outside. Balance is good. The ups and downs of spring weather remind us of that. I am glad I live where the seasons bring an obvious change. As I drive I smile at the swelling, pinkish buds of the as yet bare trees as they reach toward the sun and its warmth.
The relief we feel when the sun warms us is surely increased by our natural reaction to the bitter cold. The grief we feel as skies cloud and chilly breezes blow reminds us of what we seem to have lost. Yet as a wise person has said, spring brings hope. Even during the days it seems to retreat we can maintain that hope by acknowledging how we much cherish the longer hours of daylight as well as the slow but steady increase in the pleasing warmth that swells the buds of the trees and urges the spring flowers open.