the deva in the darkness

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

by Denise Levertov


I wonder why we’re so quick to reach toward the Sun on Solstice.

Why do we dismiss the gift of the darkness?

Sipping margaritas under the summer sun is simpler. Much simpler.

I’ve read that the days leading up to Solstice are the most feminine of the year–a time of pause, of rest, of surrender. Winter’s yin to summer’s yang.

I need that.

Why do I fight it then? (Curse it, even!)

Why do I place a higher value on the expression on my yang than on the yin which necessarily conceives it?

This Solstice day is a dark one in New England. I’ve lit my tree and my staircase and my wreath to make Holy the darkness. In this week before Christmas, I’ve opted for extra yoga classes instead of the gym–seeking that which is slow and restorative to anything more invigorating.

My doctor calls, suggesting an upgrade with my progesterone cream–offsetting the havoc inflicted by my shifting hormones.

I’m hesitant to claim the relief.

Do I not deserve it? Wouldn’t I prefer to be my usual, satisfied self?

These are the questions I ponder in my therapist’s chair.

She tells me that some women say that it is their PMS self that is their truest reflection.

Am I an edgy, agitated, easily-irritated woman?

I can be.

Do I want to be?

I’m surprised to discover that, right now, I do. I prefer her. She fits. She has something important to say.

Annie Dillard writes that, How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

This morning I wake in self-love, the first I’ve felt in weeks. Gone is my fractured mind and my ever-present angst. My body is tired, but I feel whole. Still. Contained. Embraced.

I open my computer, and watch as that changes. With each click of the mouse, my mind wakes to the day. My fingers speed over the keys, delighting in the rapid succession of taps. Despite this engaging stimulation, my wellbeing begins to fray.

When I click on my browser, I am at once overwhelmed by how many pages I work at one time. I close all but one, and then suffer the lack of efficiency.

I resist the urge to check email while a page is loading. I don’t scan Facebook. I stay present to the site that is open in front of me. Even though nothing is happening. Even though I am bored. Even though this is impractical.

I witness how my thoughts race ahead of my body. I bring them back. I am gentle.

Slowly my sweet sense of sanity fractures away. The phone rings. An email comes through. A Facebook chat chimes. The Christmas cd skips. I have to pee.

Had there been sun–or hormones–I wouldn’t have noticed any of this…

This is how I live my life.

This is its cost.

This is the darkness illuminating the price tag.

Kelly Salasin, December 21, 2011

To read more on self & the holidays, click here.

To read more about the Sun and Winter Solstice, click here.

Life’s Debris

I recently read a novel in which the main character suffers a car accident as a child, and afterward repeatedly cuts her hand on the glass shards emerging from her scalp whenever she runs her fingers through her hair.

Besides freaking me out (which fiction often does), this story reminded me of a somewhat similar experience at an old farm house we rented during our first years in Vermont.

My husband and I created our first flower bed in the soil above the stonewall in the backyard.  We were surprised to discover that whenever we put our hands in the dirt, we uncovered pieces of broken glass or nails or scrap metal (and once even a rusted piece of jewelry.)

Though we would remove every bit of debris we could find, each time it rained, more would be unearthed;  and with each summer season, there would be even more.  The garden never stopped giving.

It occurs to me now that this is a lot like life. Despite years of therapy, a decade of Al-Anon, a lifetime of journaling, yoga, body work and more–junk keeps coming up.

And just like the garden or the child’s skull, there is an element of surprise, of curiosity even:  Oh, look, there’s another piece of glass in my head.  Oh, look, there’s another nail in the garden.  Oh, look, there’s my mother, just when I though I had raked her story from my life.

I imagine that whoever is living in that lovely old farmhouse now is still finding debris in the flower garden among the lavender and lady’s mantle, but perhaps not as much; and I imagine that the girl in the novel eventually rid herself of the embedded glass in her skull.

And I?  I will continue to be surprised by the chunks of my past popping up in my future in the face of how diligently I have worked to composte it.

Kelly Salasin