Up until this year, I’ve always driven to and returned from work in daylight.
The hours of the courses I taught determined my schedule and, as a result, I lived most of my life in the sun. A frozen sun in winter, admittedly, and one oft eclipsed by clouds, but sun nonetheless. Driving in the darkness was an anomaly for me, something that betokened an after-hours meeting or a particularly venturesome activity.
This year, with more regular hours at my new position, I have spent the majority of winter driving to work in the dark. I am fortunate that I return home with the light, but my husband doesn’t, and neither does my father. I have come to understand the weariness they speak about in winter that comes with living life outside the hours of the sun, your going-to and your coming-from ensconced in perpetual dark.
I’ve written here before, and it still holds true, that I am an autumn soul at heart. The days from September through early December are my favorite of the entire year. But this year I am experiencing a first, thanks to all this darkness and my new commute, and it’s this: I am longing for the seasons of sun and heat.
Here is what I miss, specifically: the sun slanting out over the wetland and marshes I can see from my back window, warming up the grass late, late, late into the evening. The harsh trill of red-winged blackbirds swaying on top of the reeds. The damp heat of a late summer evening when I walk through my neighborhood, dodging the prickles of sprinkler water. Sunbeams across the carpet.
I’m hardly alone in this. Cultures long before hours spent much of their days and years waiting for the sun to return during the dark months. Getting to visit Newgrange in the Bru na Boinne in Ireland – an ancient monument built to capture the first light of the winter solstice – really hammered home to me this cultural longing that has been built throughout the entirety of human history.
I always found it interesting that God saw fit to provide people with the variance of seasons, a mini-journey from light to darkness and back again. I am certain that the God who saw fit to explain His word through parables also tells His story of redemption through this cycle of the year. And so, as I wait for time to “spring forward” and for the official arrival of spring, I follow the hints and signs that portend growth and light again: a later dusk, the return of geese, the presence of a single red-winged blackbird in my backyard.
The world was made, and we were made, to hunger for light – not just in the material realm, but in the spiritual, too. As I approach solemnity of Ash Wednesday, that’s the thought I intend to keep in mind.