but by making the darkness conscious.” ~Carl Jung
Have you ever gazed into a candle flame with enough presence and curiosity to notice the darkness in the center of all that pure burning light?
There is darkness inside the light.
And there is also light inside darkness if we look for it.
Sometimes we must carry our own light into the darkness to really see what is there, but there are times of grace when the bottom falls out of our dark despair into a mercy of light and it lightens our weighted hearts. I love the literal darkness and so this day….this solstice day of the longest night, is a blessed comfort to me. And yet, even as I love the dark night sky and the black beckoning crevices and the deep black tunnels of our pupils, there is a kind of emotional dark night of the soul that can threaten my love of darkness. This kind of darkness can have me want to betray my love affair with darkness and have me beg for the light.
Years ago while I lived in an old magical house in the ghost town of Jerome, Arizona, I bumped into a heartbreak so piercing that I doubted I would survive it. I remember one afternoon climbing into my shower on the second floor of the hundred year old house, throwing the shower curtain closed and collapsing into a heap on the bathtub floor, while the hot water rained down on me and tears poured out of me. To hell with saving water, yelled my hurting heart, and I cried and I cried and I cried until the shower had nearly drained the entire forty gallon hot water heater. Suddenly, there in a pile of nakedness and tears and snot and water in that bare white tub it was as if I broke through the darkness and an eerily welcomed glow of loving beauty opened before me…
and it was light!
Unbelievably, a quiver of a smile arrived on my lips and I rinsed my face with what little warm water there was left and climbed out of the tub, wrapped up in a towel and lay down on my bed in utter amazement. I was shown the magic of allowing and accepting a pure and unadulterated grief to have its way with me. This was no bad mood unattended by tears…this was a raw and wild and uncontainable river, whose story had calved off this torrent eons ago and now there was only the un-dammed rush of emotion. That kind of grief can break us into something beyond.
It was a few years before that, while I was training to guide vision quests when I was in the vast openness of Death Valley with a group of people studying dream work, that I had an amazing dream. In an uncanny synchronicity, or perhaps a wise gift from mystery, I was given a dream that so exactly portrayed the way we must work with our darkness, in vivid color and image.
As I slept in my tent on the desert floor in a wide, dry drainage system for the ragged mountain peaks to the west, I dreamt I was alone and entering a very large very dark cave. In the dream I am carrying a small pen light to light my way. I am tentative, but determined ,and I entered slowly. As I began to be usurped by an inky blackness, my small light found its way onto something that my eyes could barely recognize. Simultaneously, I began to both hear the sound of and feel the sucking sensation of a clay-ey mud beneath me, pulling me in. My eyes could see white bar like stripes draped with something green and slimy. As I moved my tiny beam of light back and forth, over the white slats, I suddenly realized it was a very large skeleton…still upright and huge, and moss hung from the bones. The shape began to spell out dinosaur….it was the entire skeleton of a pre-historic dinosaur who too, had sunk into the mud. It had died and remained upright over the years, retaining it’s form!
As the dream faded and my waking consciousness returned, I saw the magnificence of the teaching offered by dream-maker. There are ancient skeletons of things now extinct that remain hidden to me in my dark caves, that can only be recognized if I go into those places where I cannot see…. that often frighten me, and turn on a light!
It was, and still is, a magnificent dream!
I cannot remember any bright and shiny end to the dream, but as the dream group heard it, it brought a visceral and image-rich teaching to all of us. I reflected on how in our day worlds, it is the long buried bodies of dinosaurs that sequester carbon and now fuel our crazy world. I wonder what we have buried in our psyches that, if seen for what they are, could fuel our lives in new ways.
Tonite I sit in my cozy cottage with candles aflame, bearing witness to the longest night of the year, and giving thanks for the immaculate relationship that occurs between the light and the dark.
They belong to each other and we, to them.