December’s Darkness

When I rose this morning, it was so grey outside, I thought it might be snowing. But no. It’s just grey, bare, and dark. Here, in Washington, D.C., on the east coast of the United States, we are in the darkest days of the year. The Winter Solstice is only a few days away, so the light will return slowly, but for now, our days are wrapped in darkness.

This reality is not just in the weather, either. To me, this country and the world all seem dark these days. Covid is on the rise, people are angry about it, arguing about basic facts like vaccines and masks. Some schools in my area are going virtual, again. Around the world, refugees suffer in unprecedented ways. People flee war, hatred, and violence. People flee poverty that would grind most of us down. Yet, in many places, there is a culture of indifference. Some people act as though they deserve to live where they live. Some people think of humans fleeing violence, prejudice, and poverty as their enemies. In all this sadness, what will a new year bring? When the light begins to return, what will it reveal?

We have to walk through a gate. We have to move from indifference to compassion. We have to walk from one reality to create another. If we do not, then 2022 will look too much like 2021.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours walking the grounds of Washington National Cathedral, on an unseasonably mild December 17th. I have walked the gardens and grounds of this cathedral many times. I know nearly every square foot of it, inside and out. For me, it is a place of refuge. I sometimes refer to Rock Creek Park and the Martin Luther King Memorial as my “churches,” and they are. But this actual church is kind of my church too. Both its beautiful exterior and its welcoming interior.

From one side of a gate, you see the world in a particular way. You see the gate, yet you cannot see precisely what is on the other side. But once you walk through it, you no longer see the gate. You see the landscape you couldn’t see clearly before. But perhaps the most important moment is the actual passing through the gate. If you walk slowly, when you pass beneath and through, the world darkens just a bit, you can’t see all that is around you, yet you keep walking. No one wants to stop in the midst of a gate, in shadow.

Maybe if we are intentional, if we deliberately invite the change, we can be different. Maybe we can move from indifference to others and their plight, to compassion toward them. Maybe we can pass from caring too much about the “I” and walk in the direction of “we.” The truth is, the world only changes when we change. We can’t will the landscape or other people to change. But we can transform ourselves. With reflection, intention, and will, we can walk through a gate and make a different world on the other side.

Photo Credit: Taken by the author, Washington National Cathedral, Bishop’s Garden. 12/17/2021

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Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

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