Waking in the Dark and Finding the Big Dipper

February 1

“Spectacular” was the word that I used to describe the Grand Canyon when we went to see it. It was breath-taking, awesome, big, deep. Well, if you’ve been there you know. However, the image that comes most to my mind when I remember that trip was not the Grand Canyon, but the nearness of the stars in the Utah sky when we camped out.

I have done a fair bit of camping. And I’ve spent many evenings looking at the stars. I live in the country so the sky reaches the earth at every horizon. Even so, there is what has been called, “light pollution”, that is, it is never dark enough to really see the stars the way I saw them that night in the wilderness.

Medical studies have shown the importance and benefits to health of darkness when we sleep. As our bodies need some hours of physical darkness, so too our spirits need the calm and peace of darkness. We cannot be always “light” and merry and visionary. The dark place for our spirits is not one of evil, depression or ignorance; it is the blanket of comfort, the mystery of the unknown, and the womb of creativity and inspiration.

February is Black History month in Canada and in the United States. It seems a good time to recognize how Whites throughout the centuries have validated their dehumanizing treatment of Blacks by their association of “light” with all that is good and “black/dark”, with all that is evil. (My children might say, “no, that’s crazy!” but sadly this was/is normative thinking even in my lifetime.)

Barbara Holmes writes: “I wear darkness as a skin color that I love. Without darkness, I would not be! I entered the world from the nurturing darkness of the womb and relied upon a dark and resourceful family, community, and cosmos for my well-being. We come from the darkness and return to it.

“Because I saw my Aunties negotiate darkness as a reality with as much potential as light, I stopped being afraid of the dark. I realized that sight and insight were not dependent upon the glaring light produced by humans, for there was an inner light that glowed and revealed much more.”

The wisdom of the ages has recognized the need for honouring within ourselves both the “dark” and the “light”.  In ancient times stars were the compass to guide travelers. How will I find my way to fullness of life if there is not enough darkness to see the inner stars?”