Saturday, 7 December 2013

Light Thoughts

The resident sweetie read and enjoyed my post last week, but suggested maybe this week I should keep it light, as in “not so heavy.”  He’s probably right...not everyone is enthusiastic about puzzling out the answers to big questions. I notice when I am pontificating about some weighty issue, sometimes my listeners’ eyes glaze over, and they yawn. This is called the MEGO affect (“my eyes glaze over.”) The trouble with being light, however, is that it is hard to do on demand.

I pondered possible light topics (The Very First Quilt I Ever Made, hahaha? Pet Stories aka What’s a dead guinea pig doing in the freezer? or The Anger Monster who lives in my Closet – oh wait, that’s not funny at all). Sigh. To paraphrase Kermit, it’s not easy being light.

Then a light bulb (pun intended) flashed in my mind: the word light can have another meaning. Light is the opposite of dark, and if there’s anything that December is known for, it’s darkness. We get up in the dark, and we eat supper in the dark, and in the hours in between the skies are probably grey or cloudy.
Opa helps Solay with lights.
We could all do with a bit more brightness in our lives at this time of year –  to be reminded that yes, Virginia, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. And it’s a good time to reflect on the light as we await Christmas, when we celebrate the arrival of God’s Light to the world.

 We’ve had a few fun experiences with light lately. It started last Friday evening at church, when we had a family potluck dinner to launch Advent. Each table was decorated nicely with a central wreath studded with Christmas lights. But we didn’t even notice those lights until the overhead fluorescents were turned down. Then the colourful lights right in front of our noses added a lovely ambience to our fellowship. Sometimes we have to be in the dark before we notice that there actually is light around us.

The next day, the grandboys had a Winter Faire at Saltwater, their Waldorf-inspired school. ( for more specifics on that form of education) We were the proud grandparents who listened to the singing and watched the candles being dipped and lit. There were lots of songs about light and candles, including “This Little Light of Mine.” Several times we heard the teachers explain that everyone’s job, including the kids, is to bring our light out into the world and let it shine. I like that! And it’s not too heavy an idea, either. Just do it!

This is also the season of Chanukah, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the victory of a small band of Maccabees over pagan oppressors. Miraculously, although there was only oil enough for the lamp to burn for one night, the oil held out for eight nights. Chanukah is a holiday that says: "Never lose hope." We got out the Menorah that we’d bought in Spain last year and lit the candles. Tradition says the Menorah should be placed in a window as a testimony to the world of God’s miracles. Light that is hidden can’t dispel darkness or offer hope. Another bright idea!

And now I am looking forward to the Advent Spiral, another event at Saltwater School.
I remember how it was last year. A large spiral path bordered by evergreen boughs lay on the floor. A flickering candle rested on a tree stump at the center. Gold paper stars were evenly dispersed along the path. Each of us, children and adults, was invited to take a turn to walk quietly and meditatively inside the spiral, holding an unlit candle that had been stuck into an apple. We would light our candle from the central flame, then place it on a star around the circle.

 But when you gather 15 preschoolers together, things have a way of taking a left turn. The first child, chosen because he was already squirming on his mother’s lap, didn’t want to place his candle on the star; instead, he put it down as close to the central light as possible. The next three children followed suit, and so there were four little candles huddled together close to the source of the light.

The next child found the star and put his candle down in the right place, but wasn’t so sure he wanted to leave the circle. Another child ran exuberantly around the spiral, laughing all the way. One child meditatively chewed on his apple candleholder on the way into the spiral. Several children hopped into and out of the spiral over the cedar boughs instead of walking on the path. One very little one lit her candle then walked over to her grandma to give it away.  But they all lit their candles and set them down somewhere in the circle, and the room was brighter when we left than when we arrived.

I guess we all stumble around in the darkness sometimes, and go round in circles; then someone lights a candle, and we can see the way home.

Work in progress: an advent spiral wallhanging. Hopefully next year, I'll embroider candles on it and use it as an advent calendar.

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