OLG Old Lady Gardner #20 embracing the night

Yes, I garden but I also take care of a 3 year old grandson. He is much like my garden. He is growing fast, needs lots of care and attention and can be both loving and frustrating at the same time.

These sentences I start a week ago and were never finished. They were started on a day of frustration and a bit of darkness on my half. I was feeling the weight of a head cold, the quickly approaching nights of deep darkness and the wildness of a three year old stuck inside due to cold and heavy snow. Plus red paint streaked over the living room wall behind the couch by that same three year old. We were working on a Christmas painting for Mom and Dad that is still not done. A whirlwind of winter darkness was upon us.

Now on Dec 20 I am finally taking a moment to return to writing. Grandson is home with Mom for winter break. I have scrub the kitchen floor (and that wall in the living room), done a big cleaning of the basement bathroom and the guest bed sheets are in the wash to be freshened up before my son and daughter in law arrive late tomorrow. There are gifts to be wrapped and a few still coming – I hope today and tomorrow. There is plenty left to do but…

For now I am sitting with a cup of tea, a winter wonderland outside that is bitterly cold. It is currently 4 degrees with it feeling like 12 below. It is 11:30 am. It is about as warm as it is going to get today. But the sun is shinning and I am thinking through next steps but also running with the thoughts of light and darkness.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice. The first official day of winter. It is the turning point towards light. The days will begin to get longer. At first the light increases by just a minute but each day brings a few more minutes of light. We are moving towards spring. I know we have a long ways to go but there is something special about this deep winter marking. The beginning of light, the holidays of light and giving. The gathering of friends and/or family. Many of us work hard to bring this light into the world at this time. The lights on a tree, the candles lite each night, the lights on houses and the bright colors we use to reflect more light.

We are at a balancing point of the year. We are mid way between dark and light. We stand with the longest night of the year before us. It is a time we can sink deeply into the underworld of dark or we can stop and stay here in the moment. We can hold on to the wonder of the darkness and reach to the glory of light found in friends and family. We can take time to listen to the night coldness and the day time quiet that the snow brings.

This darkness is the time that is often hard for me but find if I hold on to finding the little moments of joy the world seems to be brighter. I don’t need to solve all the problems or even chase after all the things that we think need to be done. It is just important to pay attention to the little things – the smiles, the falling of snow flakes, the crisp crunch of snow under my feet or the sound of birds seeking food for warm in the deep chill of December.

Mary Oliver helps us to stop and stay in the moment – not letting the whirlwind spin us around.

Snowy Night by Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

“Mary Oliver’s “Snowy Night” reminds us to pay attention and to be with what is present, whether we understand it or not. It invites us to welcome, instead of to shun, the dark and be open to what we don’t “know” and instead step into wonder.”  (poem and ending phrase pulled from Nadia Colburn’s blog)

Here is to staying open to the wonder of this season! May you enjoy friends and family or a bit of quiet night in what ever celebration comes before you.

Happy Holidays to All!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to OLG Old Lady Gardner #20 embracing the night

  1. Terje says:

    Oh, a cup of tea before noon and writing. I love how your thoughts roll out and they have substance and poetic voice. Plus you have added the gift of Mary Oliver’s poem. I wonder whether my slice would have had more flesh and detail if I had written it during a day rather in the evening. We’ll never know. Happy Holidays to you!

  2. “We can hold on to the wonder of the darkness and reach to the glory of light found in friends and family.” I like this sentence because it is hopeful, and a way to stay grounded during the hustle and bustle of this winter month.

  3. Oooh, that Mary Oliver poem is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it in this space today.

    I walked downstairs and said, “Happy Winter!” to my husband and kids today. I was excited since the days only get longer after this. That being said, I prefer the way you said it, “It is the turning point towards light.” That’s much more eloquent!

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