Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A light in the darkness

It is just after three in the afternoon. My laptop sits askew on my desktop, angled away from the precious shaft of sunlight beaming in my western office window. My chiropractor probably won't be happy with my choice, but I'd rather suffer this evening's stiff neck than sit aright with closed curtains, squandering this dwindling source of natural vitamin D lest I let in the glare. The winter solstice is fast approaching, and with it, my seasonal nemesis: twilight at 4 pm.

As I've mentioned before, I'm no stranger to daytime darkness. Being an Saskatchewan ex-pat, however, I am fairly new to the jarring leap of daylight savings stealing a whole hour of evening light in one foul crank of the clock. For the first twenty years of my life, I simply slipped into the Central Time Zone; standing still while others jumped to join us. Daylight still dwindled, but at a smooth and steady pace. Daylight savings remained a theoretical concept, and, in my humble opinion, a faulty one at that. My seven years of practical experience has only strengthened that notion.

The extra hour of morning light has mostly been lost on this chronically late riser, so most of my Albertan experience of daylight "savings" has left me feeling robbed. Yes, I slept an extra hour, but I probably have anyways. Now that I am up early on a regular basis, I have begun to appreciate the quickening dawn, but not nearly as much as I loathe the ever-lengthening evenings. Pre-dawn darkness holds a considerable amount of hope. Bidding farewell to the sun before supper is just downright depressing. Unfortunately, short of starting a petition, or stubbornly refusing to set back my clocks, there isn't much I can do about the current state affairs. So as the view outside my window deepens to indigo, I close my curtains against the gloaming, crank up the Christmas music, and light every candle I can get my hands on.

And there is the hidden pleasure of late November: an ever-extending opportunity for candlelight. Candles in the early bright can be lovely too, but there's some magical about a flickering flame that fights the blackness of night. Thus I greet the early nightfall, rude as I find its entry. Dusk descends, and votives create little havens of amber scattered atop my piano, along my shelves, about my kitchen counter; tealights illumine icons, calling the observer to participate in the mystery they depict. My table is laden with tapers, at present mostly unlit, but as the fast approaches the feast so grows the glow from our advent wreath. For now, a single candle holds faith of beginning an arc that each week will come closer to completing a circle of flame to honour of the Light of the World.

It is in battling these gloomy hours that I see the wisdom in celebrating the Nativity of our Lord in the dead of winter. For it is those in darkness who most need a great light. And candles will forever grace my Christmas list, wherever I reside.

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