Inhale the Darkness

From The Paris Review:

Two boys strung the lights onto houses in Ohio. When nighttime arrived in the afternoon, they climbed their ladders. One held the loop and fed the cord to the other who reached and fastened, line of lights between them. This way they did their festive work, strung bulbs under gutters, rimmed front porches, edged the roofline trim—there they were at the peaks, making arrow-tips of light aimed at the big black night sky. They helixed little lights around lampposts, around and around the oak tree and the evergreen, passing the lights between them, breathing in pine needle, branches catching the collars of their coats, pitch sticky at the tips of their work gloves. Some bulbs were sharp and thorny, others round-fat egg drops. They looped the lights around the trees, lights dripped and draped as though the constellations themselves had gotten caught in the net of branches. When they finished the job, they’d knock on the door, bring the family out into the cold, ready?, and they’d flip the switch, ta-da!, and sometimes kids would leap and cheer and turn around at their parents smiling, eyes glittering, to see if they saw, too. And sometimes the parents made a sound, joy, relief, firework glow on their faces like summer. But it wasn’t summer, it was coming on Christmas, as Joni Mitchell sings, and the boys saw their breath as they worked, lighting up the darkness.

Last day of November and the dark this year is darker. We’re moving into winter. Henri Bosco describes the moment in his fevered novel Malicroix:

It was already the end of November … a time of extreme balance between the seasons, a miraculous moment when the world was poised on pure ridge. From there it seemed to cast a glance back at the aging autumn, still misty with its wild moods, to contemplate deadly winter from afar.

We’ll contemplate this deadly winter from right close up, we’re already almost in it.

. . . .

Dark makes its annual inhale of light. It seems night all the time now, and it’ll keep getting nighter as we spin toward the solstice on December twenty-first. If you follow the meteorological calendar, tomorrow, December one, is the first day of winter. If you follow the astrological calendar, calibrated by the position of the sun, winter begins at eight thirty in the morning on December twenty-first, when the earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted farthest away from the sun, when we’re delivered the longest night of the year. These are lampposts to string your lights around, ways of managing your time, systems to agree and believe in. There are other winter signals.

What’s the start of the season for you? Is it: the first time you see your breath; the first potato-chip crisp of ice on a puddle; the first snow; tinsel; Menorah; mistletoe; mug of hot chocolate; when the river freezes; when you hear a Christmas carol in CVS; see a wreath on a neighbor’s door; a candy cane; a persimmon; a pomegranate; eggnog in the dairy aisle; scarf around your throat; a certain pair of socks; the changed quality of blaze in sunset sky? Is it a creeping spider of malaise? A vague and frightening fuzz-edged feeling of hopelessness when the sun starts to sink too soon, a bottom giving way beneath you? A shadow at the back of the brain that, if you find yourself in too quiet a moment, gives an electric sizzle of static you can almost hear? A snarled black nest of fear in your chest and the upped urge to have another drink? The first fire? The first frost?

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

1 thought on “Inhale the Darkness”

  1. First Week of Advent Sunday – seeing that purple candle lit, and knowing that just 4 weeks separates me from Christmas Week.

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