Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Hello, Darkness!

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Darkness and Awakening. These are, in my personal estimation and temperature taking of the zeitgeist,  the two great themes of 2017. Whether you look at the year from a macro or micro view, take it personally or put a more universal perspective to your lens, these are the recurring motifs.  Even the 2017 Word of the Year that has been identified is complicit. It speaks both of a knowing darkness and a guilty glimmer of self-insight. We ask ourselves these days if we are 'Woke.' That implies awakening from, perhaps a dream or very deep slumber. Some people awake with a jolt. Others emerge slowly in a fug of confusion. But awakening eventually happens, even in the darkness of a December morning.

 For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the days are short, often cold, and very often damp or wet. We close ourselves in. Those who work the 9 to 5 awaken in darkness, emerging to head towards home in darkness.  

For those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder, mood descends with the waning light. But also, with the Great Year End Gatherings that await us at month's end, there are often echoes of absences as much as presences. The prospect of the great gift giving can be stressful and prompt feelings of being under resourced for the Great Feast on so many levels - fiscal, emotional,  physical. This can sometimes throw a pall, a differenent kind of darkness, that of depression. The Holiday Season is one that often keeps the suicide hotlines the warmest connection for the lonely and deeply distressed.

If you are in touch with the circadian rythmns, like our companion animals (and my husband!), you may well be sleeping longer. Or longing for longer sleep as the alarm summons you to the dark start of the workday. After twelve months hard toil, it is little wonder we are tired. The earth gently calls time for a snooze. 

It is the great paradox of this month that just as the earth is winding down into a deep drowse, the Great Feast is making us hurry and scurry to meet deadlines, to finish things 'in time', to partake in the great get and receive of the season. Iit is also a time when the ancestors, like Ghosts of Christmas Past, can make their presence known.

A cousin gave me a writiing desk that was given at Christmas 1875 to my maternal great-grandmother. A friend refurbished it for me and noted that it was not manufactured,that there were telling small omissions and short-cuts in the finish. I imagine a long ago relative, perhaps the Great-great Grandfather who was a Delaware River ferry man, running out of time, making it secretly in a lamplit room or cold outbuilding on his out of work hours.

Or perhaps it was my Great-great Grandmother who made it. She herself did inscribe the inside of the box as a gift from one Mary Ella to another Mary Ella. Maybe she was the workworker and craftswoman making this most Victorian of objects, a writing box or portable desk where your pens, letters and writing paper were stored from prying eyes.

At thirteen, how grown-up my Great-Grandmother must have felt to own such an object. What were her hopes and dreams? What did she write? To whom did she send letters?

Little did any probably imagine that one day, two centuries away, it would become an ancestral relic. Not the secret Santa who was hurrying to make the Christmas Eve deadline. Nor the gift's recipient. People who died before I was born are a presence even in their absence. The whispers and hints left in a hand-crafted gift speak over the trial of time and space.

It is in this dark season we ponder those deeply felt absences of ancestors and nearer kith and kindred. The imponderable secret of the Darkness is the hope and joy of Awakening.

This led me to ponder in my journal today that the only magic worth doing, really, is forgiveness.

Forgiveness of the absences. For their palpable, often uncomfortable, presence. For the heaviness and burden of times of Darkness. For what the Darkness seeks to conceal.

And to also forgive even the Lightness for its inherent fragility, the weight of a bird's hollow bones. Similarly justice. And peace. How all manage to slip from our reach despite great effort and passion.

Perhaps this is the Great Gift of Darkness to me this December 2017, the small spark that leads to greater awakening.

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    

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