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Ways of Seeing, Ruth Farmer: Points of light eclipse gloom

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Posted on December 14, 2017 |
By Ruth Farmer



T. S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month.” However, for me November is brutal. Short, cloudy days suck my energy and I feel as though I live in perpetual twilight, not asleep and rarely fully awake. Most mornings, I force myself to resist the urge to burrow down in bed and sleep all day. I wonder what it would be like to hibernate for the winter.

On this morning, I muscle my way into morning rituals: I thank my bed. I thank God. As I lift my head, in anticipation of meditating and exercising, I notice a point of light in the darkness near the floor and wonder what it is. Every so often the moon greets me by poking its light-nose into my bedroom. Perhaps the source is an electronic device I’ve forgotten to unplug. Or is the light a figment of my imagination?

I turn on the bedside lamp. On the floor, propped against the wall is an old lover’s sketch of my finely formed buttocks. (It is a very old sketch.) That explains the surface. I turn off the lamp, get out of bed, and walk across the room, taking care not to trip in the dark. The white point shifts positions whenever I move. I step backwards and forwards, side to side, playing with what turns out to be the smoke alarm light reflected on a Kindle, the sketch, and a mirror.

Now I am fully awake. A moment of curiosity has given me the energy to do something other than wait for dawn. I go outside to greet the darkness.

It is warm for late November — 40 degrees, according to my outdoor thermometer. There are points of light on porches, above garage doors, and in hallways. Yet, I feel as though the houses are empty, that I am alone in the neighborhood standing on my dark deck. Then headlights glide on a distant road. Someone is going to work, going home, or feeling the need for a drive as I felt the need to step into the breeze and to listen to the trees talk to the wind. I wait for sunrise; it is an exercise in patience.

The term “sunrise” is a misnomer. It is more accurate to say that the earth turns and reveals the sun’s light, astronomically speaking. Weather.com reports that today sunrise will take place at 7:00 a.m. in Bristol, Vermont. The land brightens long before that. Time is a human concept. Nature does what it will. The sun appears as a filtered grayish point of light in the east. I realize it will not get any brighter this morning no matter how long I wait. I go inside, feeling at peace.

How calming it can be to look into the sky. Among the clouds, there was a blue beyond that radiated quiet. The sound of the wind rustling the trees was punctuated by silence. And in that silence, a flock of birds flew up from a tall pine and scattered westward without a sound. Such peace.

Too many mornings, I wake up feeling burdened by the weight of life’s tensions, from the mundane to the horrific, much of which I can do nothing about. I anticipate dramas in my life, my job, or my business. I worry about the wars that never seem to end and the suffering that they cause, even though I know that worrying never changes anything. Rituals of prayer and meditation and gratitude shift my attention, and remind me that I am incredibly optimistic despite gloomy November days.

Stepping out of my house into the air, gloom falls away with ease. Anticipated dramas are forgotten. This morning, I watched as the earth turned slowly to show me the sun’s light. To see takes time, to understand takes patience, and to know takes an eternity. I am learning to wait for light to come as I embrace the darkness.

Ruth Farmer is a published essayist and poet. She directs the Goddard Graduate Institute in Plainfield, and is sole owner of Farmer Writing and Editing.

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