(Art credit: Keeping Hope Alive by Phatpuppyart-studios on Deviantart here)
I’ve kept to myself for months now. The pandemic has made that easier. Once every few weeks, a friend from town comes for a socially distanced visit on my back patio. We have to choose the day carefully so it’s warm enough for us to sit outside and chat comfortably for an hour or two. I hear from my childhood friend occasionally and my friend with trauma and I connect when one of us needs support. My eldest and their partner are here all the time but we are content to have brief chats and then go about our separate lives in the same house. I don’t know how long it’s been since I left social media. Six months, maybe?
My younger kids come to stay every other week and those weeks are the hardest. I love them, appreciate the time we have together, and I struggle because their presence is triggering and it’s hard work to stay truly present with them.
In the beginning of the pandemic, being so isolated was challenging; I tried to find meaningful things to do with my time but found I had little energy or focus for those tasks. The stress of the pandemic, coupled with my own state of mind, make it extremely challenging for me to accomplish most projects and sometimes even chores. At some point a few months ago, I stopped trying to accomplish anything other than surviving each day and do just the chores that keep us alive and healthy.
I wake up each day an hour or so before sunrise. The darkness and the quiet give my nervous system time to set a calm baseline for the day to come. And I love to watch the light change. There’s a moment during the gloaming time when color comes back to the world. From my window, I can see it happen while I’m sitting in my bed. One minute, everything outside seems swathed in shades of dark blue and grey. The next, the rocks on the mountains spark a hint of orange that softly glows. If I happen to catch that moment as it happens, I put on some warm clothes and go outside.
Did you know that the birds don’t just start singing at some point during sunrise? The smaller birds will click and chuck for a time before singing. This morning I went outside just in time to hear those first small sounds beginning. It’s been about twenty minutes and they are just starting their songs. The always silent trees, also seem to wake up when the light returns. I see their thin top branches reaching for the first rays of light as it set them softly afire with a warm golden color.
The winter sunrise mirrors my own process in high speed. I am the rocks on the mountains, the whispering birds and the bare-limbed trees in the dawn of my own becoming. The warmth of my own embodiment, a product of this last year’s work, is slowly awakening my inner world and I am beginning to see myself as a landscape with the potential to eventually fill out with oxygen giving leaves, frolicking animals and life sustaining fruits and flowers.
As I write this, the mountains are now aflame with a deep pink and I hear the sounds of the crows and jays calling to one another in their secret languages.
I have needed, still need, the time and space to dwell in my inner land of darkness. Intentionally allowing myself to live in my own long winter’s night is an achingly slow process; I cannot yet see my inner world, except in the glimpses I catch in glimmers and the now less frequent triggers. I imagine most of myself as still sleeping the vast unconsciousness of hibernation. Perhaps some aspects of myself thrive in this darkness because they can more easily move about unseen. But I know most of me needs the warmth and discernment that comes with light.
Perhaps the me I am familiar with as myself is the fox or owl who thrives while most others sleep. Some brave and small part of my greater whole has taken it in stride to be the sentinel who keeps watch through the long night; they pass the time by recalling stories, sharpening tools, protecting the village from roving animals and armed raiders and occasionally laughing at the darkness because they know it will not last forever. I have stood watch through a night that has lasted years. I know I have nodded off at times, only to awaken to find fences that were torn down by wild winds or pillagers. I feel exhausted from this long watch and dawn gives me hope that I will eventually have my day in the sun.