Welcome to the day of the earliest sunset of the year. “But how can that be?”you may ask, “since the winter solstice is many days away?” I’m no wizard when it comes to numbers or math, but I do know tomorrow’s sunset will be a minute later than today’s. It’s the other end of the day, however, that continues to increase darkness. Sunrise will continue to creep later and later until on January 16 it will be at its latest. Mornings will then become longer, very, very slowly. Combined, the shortest day will be on the 21st, almost two weeks from now. Then sunlight will begin its slow crawl back to majority. And so the seasons eternally negotiate on a planet that sometimes seems to spin too fast.
Those awake early, sensitive to sunrise, need to wait a bit longer than those wanting longer evenings. There’s no taking without reciprocity here. For those in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, winter has begun its settling in process. Morning frost on the rooftops augurs the coming of snow. The almost preternatural stillness of a cloudy late afternoon anticipates what’s to come. Those of all religions, or of none at all, alike await a glimmer of lengthening days in this season of long nights. It pays to become comfortable with the darkness in the meantime. Dark need not equate to evil. It invites rest and renewal. Perhaps our culture that valorizes action and movements blurred with speed might learn from the hours of diminished light.
Walking into an early morning room with a light switch on a far wall is an act of faith. If done before any artificial lights are engaged, it’s always surprising how much light crowds in on the dark. The luminescent clock. The power strip on button. The ever-watchful router. Darkness is seldom absolute, as much as the tenebrous circumstances might suggest such extremes. Light and darkness need each other to find any kind of definition at all. Starting tomorrow, there will be incrementally longer moments of day stretching out into night. Mornings will grow more reluctant to release their light for another month or so. In the midst of this we snuggle down into the darkness and learn from it. Learn to slow down. Learn to listen instead of always looking. Learn to breathe slowly and accept that the darkness can comfort. The solstice is coming, in good time. Until it arrives, be in the twilight of the moment and trust it.