When I was a kid, I read Madeline L'Engle's book like an addict. I loved her storytelling and the mixing of science fact and science possibility to create a world just like ours but somehow better. The characters came from families who promoted knowledge, books, scientific discovery and, like Calvin in the Wrinkle in Time books, this was not the world I knew. Imagining people like this were out there got me through some very dark times.
When I read A Ring of Endless Light, I cried. Vicky was like me--an artist, a creator. Identifying with her worry over the swallows nest, her fears about things like dying dolphins in tuna nets and finding joy in the water with Basil and his pod really got to me.
Being swallowed by the darkness was something I understood. One of my best friends--my first boyfriend--died of cancer before I read this book. I understood darkness that welled up, swelling and growing like a festering glob inside you, until the balance of light and dark shifted and the bleak things, the unholy ugly bits, ate your world.
I'd been in the darkness. It had swallowed all my light until I just lay in bed curled into a ball, unwilling to even dare look for the good in the world.
And it's Christmastime and I'm remembering that book. Grandpa dies, leaving Vicky to mourn not only the loss of him but also a child that passes in her arms. This brush with dark is too much for Vicky.
She gets swallowed by the bitter and is afraid to search for light.
Our nation is trembling in a mix of shock, horror, fear and grief. The loss of light is a vacuum which sucks at our souls, leaving mothers afraid and fathers not sure how to combat the dark.
Children are afraid, too. At Christmastime, no less, when their eyes should be lit with a glow of hope and anticipation.
The darkness is thick and pervasive. Going to my kid's school today, I found my eyes darting around, afraid. I looked at the staff and was overwhelmed with the bravery it took to keep things business as usual when I know they know. I know they understand what they could face and yet are couragous enough to sit in their chairs, smiles on their faces, and keep functioning.
They're willing to be there, willing to face what may come head on, because of the children they care about in that building.
If you're looking for light in the darkness, it's there. On their faces. On the children's faces as they plan Christmas parties and write letters to Santa and whistle in the darkness.
It's easy to be 'replete with very me' in a time like this. It's easy to give into the fear and desolation and live a life with choices that are made by fear.
But Vicky learned to look for the light. She learned to be the light. We can all be the light in the darkness by not acting out of fear. Not giving into hatred, anger, mistrust, frustration and instead sharing a laugh. A hug. A smile. By looking at the sky and finding wonder in the world around us, which isn't all darkness, not if you really look.
L'Engle said it better.
"Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light."
"It's hard to let go of anything we love. We live in a world that teaches us to clutch. But when we clutch, we're left with a fistful of ashes."
"I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright,
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world
And all her train were hurled."
“It is possible to suffer and despair an entire lifetime and still not give up the art of laughter.”
“A good laugh heals a lot of hurts.”
Bring joy. Bring laughter. Bring light.
Heal the world with your brightness and dance among the stars.
Just some thoughts I was having today. Happy writing.