“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 14: Waking Up in the Dark

Today I got up early to take Zoe to Canada for an appointment that I’ve been a little scared about. We leave in half an hour.  In this winter solstice week of long nights, I’m reminded of a beautiful essay one of my students, Erin Siracusa, wrote a few weeks ago in my environmental literature course.  She gave me permission to post it here, and I have cut it a bit to make it blog-length.  I am also including a photo one of my students in the Adirondacks took just as their time out there was coming to an end. 
“Awakenings” by Erin Siracusa
There is something perfect in these moments, before the sun is up, when there is only you and the darkness and the sound of your breathing filling the molecules of space. Your brain, half-awake, is only aware enough to go through the motions.
It’s 6:30am and you wait. You sit in the semi-solid darkness and you wait, like you will wait all winter for the return of spring. You wait for something you know will come and yet which seems intangible at this moment – a distant memory in this dark landscape, that world of light. I almost want to keep it that way. There’s something about the darkness, like snow, that is pure and silent and cleansing. The world is hushed with the blanket of night as with the first snowfall of the year.
When it starts it comes subtly, hardly noticeable. The first timid twitterings that push through the curtain of darkness like the curling green stems that poke half-heartedly above the late April snows. You might miss it if your not watching carefully, these faint murmurings, birds in the pre-dawn, green pushing against the white. 
And then, the earth moves.    
Early light will begin to tint the sky and singular chirps become refrains of call and response, subtle layers of bird songs, like the strings of an orchestra, melodies and countermelodies playing over and around each other. The musical trilling of the winter wren, the nasal yank-yank of the red-breasted nuthatch, the haunting reedy tremelo of the hermit thrush crescendo through the morning, bringing with them the dawn, singing the future into being. And I will be so encapsulated in the auditory world that I will miss the rising and the melting away of the darkness. I will be startled by the brightness and the colors that now hue the once monochrome landscape. And I will wonder how I missed it, the budding of dawn, the breaking of night. All at once, it seems, it is upon us and the subtleties lost to the early morning wind.   
 And so I will try to watch and I will try to be the careful observer. But the breaking of morning will be reminiscent more of the blushing of buds that announce the coming of spring, pushing and straining to come into the world.
And I’ll realize that this is what morning offers us, light in the midst of darkness, hope of renewal even as the world creeps toward the depths of winter.   And in this moment so long anticipated, I welcome the dawn, and I give thanks to the night, for it is only in darkness that we can be truly thankful for the rising sun. 

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