Monday, January 7, 2013

Let there be light.
They say God spoke those words at the dawn of time, and ever since the first fires cast shadows on cave walls, we humans have looked for ways to banish the dark.
Darkness can be hard to handle, whether it's the long nights of winter or the murky depths of sorrow.
It's no wonder we include light in our winter celebrations. We light candles during Hanukkah, swoop strands of lights at Christmas, shoot fireworks as the New Year begins.
I was happy to turn the page to 2013, leaving behind a year of too many goodbyes, beginning with the death of my father in January. Loss is part of life, I know, and the losses of 2012 hit hard, but they also reminded me of how blessed I am, to be here, and to have loved -- and still love -- those who are gone.
That's the light I hold onto amid the darkness.
On New Year's Eve Eve, my husband and I went out to dinner with two dear friends (a more than momentary joy). Afterward we drove around the neighborhood in search of noteworthy Christmas light displays. My favorite was a free-form creation: five strands of icicle lights, streaming down from a treetop some 30 feet high. A light wind set the strands a'swaying.
From that simple setting we headed to a house in Glenside, whose owners take a decidedly different approach to holiday lighting. Their glow is visible blocks away, and features Santa, reindeer, polar bears, a seal balancing a ball on its nose, candy canes and a chugging train. All in rainbow lights, some of them flashing. I may even have seen a unicorn.
As one of our friends put it: "Pleasantly over-the-top." 
 House by house, those lights will soon disappear. In honor of my roots, I keep ours up until at least Ukrainian Christmas (which happens to be today) and usually beyond. I feel wistful as the lights go, leaving nights a little darker. Fortunately the sun is already giving us help, setting a bit later each day, offering a glimmer of the seasonal shift ahead.
I hold onto that light, too.
It seems I am a creature of hope.
Read the pages of any newspaper and it can be easy to lose hope, easy to think that this world will never change. Newtown. Aurora. Afghanistan. Syria. The heart of darkness beats on.
And yet.
I recently came across a quote from Amma, an Indian spiritual leader also known as "the hugging saint." Among her wise words are these:

"Don't be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your candle and step forward."
Let there be light?
It's up to us.
Little lights add up.