I call this time of year the Squeezebox. As the daylight hours narrow down down down to the Solstice, as we creep toward the Longest Night, I can feel Time tightening around me.
It’s an energetic thing, of course. In this age of swing shifts and electric lights and the Late Late Show, we no longer live under the strictures of the Sun. No longer have to choose between His light or firelight. Not that there was ever a choice. The sun disappeared, the chill deepened with the dark, and only a kindness in the kindling stood between us and a slow, sightless death.
That’s not our world any longer, but the remnants of that world run in our blood. Something in my bones knows that this is the time of the winnowing. This is the time when Life hangs loosely on my body like almost-outgrown clothing. We say that Samhain is the time when the veil grows thin, and I’m not saying it’s not true… but that crossing is frighteningly easy as the Solstice looms, as the days grow shorter and shorter. This is the time when many people, who have been hanging on, finally let go. This is the time when Life, and the Light that has always signified it, seems flimsy and fragile. The toe-holds tinier with each passing day.
This is a time to let go. In fact, everything about the tide of this time of year begs… no requires us to let go. In this time of scarcity we must travel light. The path before us runs thinner and thinner. We can take only what is necessary. Only pared down to our essence will we survive the paring away of the old year, and be born again on the other side.
The Squeezebox. We all feel it. Whether it feels like irritation, melancholy, loneliness or manic, defensive joy. Whether or not we understand it, have made peace with it, even celebrate it… our oldest wisdom holds the memory of this time as a dark gauntlet, a suffering of the night.
And yet. As long as we have been suffering the night, we have been filling the dark with brilliance. With brave, beautiful, hand-made Light. Lights that burn, and twinkle. Flash in colors. Shimmer in fairy-dust white. Reflect in shining silver. Blaze in gold. Lights in hearths, on trees, posts, archways, doorways… the longer the night gets, the more we fill it with light of our own making, and we maybe don’t even remember why, anymore. It’s traditional. It’s beautiful. It’s reverent. It’s fun.
And it’s one tiny person, standing in the void, holding a candle. Or thrusting a flaring torch into the starless sky. It is defiance. And acceptance. It is knowing that the dark is what makes the light beautiful. Just as the light is what makes the shade welcome.
Sometimes, at this time of year, I can look at all the lights decorating the world around me and see each one of them as a single human spirit, refusing to be silenced, standing in the darkness that surrounds us all and holding their own, little flame. If to pass through the Squeezebox we must be pared down to our essence, what else could our essence be but light? Small and individual in the bulb, infinite and mysterious in nature. Over time each lamp will die, but the Light burns on and everywhere, and it is the same Light no matter what shape it slips through.
Small wonder poets and magicians have made Light a metaphor for so many things… knowledge, wisdom, awareness, excellence, justice, mercy, even consciousness itself. We are little flames in a great darkness, and together we are Fire. Together we are a part of the balance of the universe, the dance of the elements that knows itself as Dance, and knows that the depths of Winter are the first steps of Spring’s beginning.
Something in my bones knows this, too. Even sitting in the Squeezebox. It’s hard in here, but it’s beautiful. And the fact that the hard is what gave birth to the beauty, motivated it and made it possible? Well that’s just a Truth. And a gift of the season.
So Happy Holidays, however you mark them. Because they certainly mark you.
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich