Embracing Darkness

It’s November now, and I’m afraid of the oncoming winter and the speed at which it descends.

I’m afraid of the way darkness begins to swallow my day at both ends. Every week we lose about eighteen minutes of daylight, nine in the morning, nine in the evening, until those minutes add up to hours, and evening isn’t evening anymore–it’s night.

I’m afraid of the way rain descends like a blanket over the remaining daylight hours. When it arrives, it seems it will never leave. I wake to the sound of rain in darkness. Hours later, after tea and breakfast, I peer through the window, trying to assess the shape and force of the rain.

I am afraid of the feeling I get, a tension that sits between stomach and ribs, when I run from my house to my car, my head bent to keep from getting wet, and then bent all day in my windowless office, down, down, always looking down. I leave work in darkness, arrive to darkness, and all that awaits me is a cold house, a tired wife, and a set of tasks to be done before bedtime. That tension beneath my ribs grows and takes over my body until I am nothing but sinew and fatigue.

I am afraid of the television, afraid that it will take over my house like a monster.

I am afraid of the piles of clutter in my house, because now there is no sunny, open yard to escape to.

I am afraid of my nearly 2-year-old son, afraid that his climbing, inquisitive, joyous spirit cannot be contained indoors.

I’m afraid of the noise, the epic screeching noise of cooped-up kids in my very small home.

I’m afraid of the Christmas season, of all the projects I take on and never complete, of obligations I’ll perceive but never fulfill.

Photo by C.S. Berney

I remind myself that winter is a season. Seasons pass. More importantly, each one has its purpose, a goal it wants to involve you in, a prescription for your personal growth.

Spring: Renew.

Summer: Play.

Fall: Gather.

Winter: Look inward.

Earlier this week, I drove alongside the bay at high tide and thought about how the Pacific Northwest, now more than ever, feels like home. It was a balmy morning. I had awoken to the hammer of rain, but by the time I left the house, there were cloud breaks. The world was wet and the sky was dynamic—storm clouds and patches of blue. The kids and I walked the four blocks to Smoke’s school and it was a world of giant puddles and dead worms and, even better: a giant red toadstool that seems to double in size every day.

toadie

I thought about how darkness can be kind, like a womb, how it can push me deeper into myself, reengage me in the creative work of knowing my own soul.

Winter, I am sorry, but you are harder to love than summer with its endless twilight and warm lakes. You are harder to love than green spring and crisp fall. You are just plain hard to love, but I will try.

One way to salvage a morning

The clock read 6:00 exactly this morning when Stump lifted his head from the pillow and began swiping at my face. He’s figured out that I can’t ignore him when he’s shoving his finger up my nose.

Any time Stump wakes up before 6:30, I know I’m in for it. He’s tired but won’t cop to it. Instead, he’ll refuse to do anything remotely helpful like sit in his high chair and eat breakfast or lie still with a diaper change, and instead he’ll opt for an activity like picking up a Wiffle ball bat, systematically clobbering everything in sight, and then screaming when I take the bat away. Usually, the only way to cope is to bide my time for two hours and then offer him a morning cat nap.

I know I’ve written already about what a wild child Stump is, but let me just add that in the months since that post, he’s gotten progressively wilder. He’s arrived at a stage where destruction isn’t just a hobby, it’s a career. Occasionally, he proves himself capable of giving a genuine hug, but more often hugs are a ploy to draw you in so that he can bite you, or pull your hair, or see how far he can stretch the skin on your neck.

To make things worse, I’m not on my game right now. I returned from Utah with strep throat, and am turning out to be mildly allergic to the Amoxicillin that doctor prescribed. I’ve got a rash running down my arms and spreading out from my belly button. I woke up with a headache. I might have slept for six hours, but the mirror told a different story. Oh, and Kellie had an early job this morning, so I had no juggling partner.

I was ready to throw my hands in the air, to resign myself to having the kind of morning where both of the kids and I alternate tantrums, but then Stump had a series of good ideas.

First, he selected a shirt from the clean laundry pile that said “Mommy’s Little Monster.” I put it on him and he walked to the front door and pointed.

Are you sure?” I asked him. “It’s raining out.”

He nodded.

rainOutside

Outside, lo and behold, it was one of those magical wet summer mornings. The rain seemed to calm Stump. He grabbed his brother’s baseball bat and wandered around with it thoughtfully, then settled at the edge of the porch. I sat behind him with my green tea and looked out at the yard, for once enjoying a morning moment that didn’t involve scrambling, or manhandling, or picking up thrown food.

AOut2

Then we came inside and ate scrambled eggs and honey toast. He watched an episode of Elmo’s World, terrorized Smoke for a while, threw a few fits, and by eight-thirty he was ready for his catnap. I had survived another early morning.