Tiny Lights in the Dark

The last light of the day on the longest night of the year for us in the South. I welcome the dark months. They draw us in to the fires on our hearths, the little twinkly lights and lanterns that we light to keep up our spirits in the big dark. We turn inward and deep down, put ourselves to bed early, read and ponder and gather our thoughts and our strength for the bright months ahead as the earth begins its long journey back to the sun.

This evening I stood outside and watched the light fade. In my city cottage I heard the dull roar of traffic as the city began to empty and all the workers rushed hither and thither back to their warm homes and dinner and light. For a moment I saw all of us humans rushing around like little ants, madly building up our wildly teetering castle of civilisation, while just above us the wide spaces of the sky slowly turn from season to season, as civilisations rise and fall and cities crumble and humans pass away like a mist dissolves in the sunlight.

We have such illusions of grandeur, us tiny humans, as we weave blankets and tents and houses and skyscrapers and rocket ships of technology and wealth and safety and security, but it is all a dream. We have little twinkling lights in the darkness, and that is all.

I think it is good to remember that we are really not that important. We have each other, we have a day in the sun, we have a dark night, we are grateful to be here on the good earth. It is enough.


simplelife said…
Amen sister.
I wonder what we look like from space, scurrying around, all frowning or with tightly clenched faces, doing the same things over and over and over. In the end what is it all for? What is our purpose? Is it really just to be? Have we made our lives out to be much more than they are? These thoughts just send me into a total brain meltdown, I get totally confused and end up feeling quite hopeless and depressed. I think you are right, having each other, some twinkly light, sunshine, and dark nights and gratitude is enough.

Happy solstice to you.
The days grow longer, the cold grows stronger. It's winter now.

Cheers Kate
Meg said…
Winter does seem to me to be a season to ponder. Perhaps it's the darkness and the cold that slows us down that little bit more and frees our thoughts up. Perhaps its the layers of jumpers and blankets that make it harder to rush anywhere with the weight of them. Or maybe it's how the cold wind curls our bodies into themselves, forcing us to look, chin down towards our hearts. Maybe Winter just sends us home early! Whatever the reason for the introspection, I agree with you. Starry lights and warm fires and day new sunshine and one another are enough! Meg
Jo said…
Kate, I have been in that space of total confusion and hopelessness when contemplating what seems to be the essential meaninglessness of life. I have finally come to the conclusion though that it gives us immense freedom. If it really doesn't matter what we do, then we can do whatever it is that gives us the most joy. And in doing that, whatever it is, we are contributing to the only thing that will outlast us - our tiny contribution to the community, whether that is through raising our children or being nice to our neighbours or teaching someone to knit or sharing a sourdough starter. Those are the tiny lights in the dark that shine on beyond us:)

Meg, I think there is a very long history behind us of winter being the time for introspection. Last night we turned off the lights and just had lamps and our candle lanterns, and I could hardly keep my eyes open! Winter nights would have been long indeed without artificial lights, and screens distracting us from winter's primary function, which of course would be sleep, for those poor farmers who worked from dawn to dusk all summer! I remember reading about a couple who chose to live in the bush in NZ with no lights or electricity at all, and the woman said that during the winter, for the first time in her life, she got enough sleep, as they slept away all the hours of dark:)
Anonymous said…
Love. Just Love.
Patricia USA
simplelife said…
If it really doesn't matter what we do, then we can do whatever it is that gives us the most joy. And in doing that, whatever it is, we are contributing to the only thing that will outlast us - our tiny contribution to the community, whether that is through raising our children or being nice to our neighbours or teaching someone to knit or sharing a sourdough starter. Those are the tiny lights in the dark that shine on beyond us:)

This. Thank you so much Jo, for shining a light to a different perspective for me. Yes, those are things are the best legacies, I feel a shift in my thinking.

cheers Kate
Hazel said…
I've been having exactly the same thoughts. I was thinking about ancestors with one of my children and realised just how quickly people are forgotten. What did they do? Unless it's headline-grabbingly good or bad, no one remembers or cares. What was their legacy? It's made me realise just how small and insignificant we all are.
My Mum is Busy all the time. She is scathing of those who aren't Busy. Her career is in an essential area so I can see more point than some Busy people whose jobs I don't even understand (I subscribe to the Richard Scarry theory of employment. If your job wasn't done by a cat or a boa constrictor in his books there's a very good chance it's not necessary). But still. I'm reminded of the story of the Mexican fisherman and the Capitalist who urges the fisherman to make more money so he can enjoy his retirement, but the fisherman just earns as much as he needs so he can enjoy his time in the present, with his family and playing his guitar.
I believe we should all be useful in whatever way we can, to other people, the community, the world, but essentially yes, do whatever gives you joy. My Dad had a friend years ago who followed the Bahai faith, and one of their central tenets seemed to be do whatever makes you happy as long as you don't hurt others. Apologies to any Bahais for such an over simplification, but I've always thought that's a pretty good maxim for life.
Anonymous said…
There was a short time in my life when I thought I should try to be very important, but it was, thankfully, a fleeting moment. Now I am very aware of my own smallness in the great scheme of things, and it bothers me less and less. Thank you, Jo and others, for your wisdom. I love Hazel's reference to the story of the fisherman.

Linda in NZ
Wise words Jo and definitely ones to remember. It must be something about the solstice and this time of year as I had a conversation with a friend along these lines last night. Definitely do what you enjoy and value while you are here but don't worry about looking for greater meanings and overarching grand designs. "it is enough" Amen to that.
Jo said…
Patricia, :)

Kate, I never met my Great-Grandmother Ruby, and I know hardly anything about her. I know nothing at all about her mother or her grandmother. But this I know. My Great-Grandmother Ruby taught my Grandma Muriel to knit. My grandma taught my mum, she taught me, and my mum and I taught my children to knit, and so on it goes through the generations. Such a small thing, yet I look back and wonder - how many generations of women in my family have passed on their knowledge of knitting, never even thinking how far into the future that one act might persist. It is not a personality that has survived, but a practical act of love and sharing. So many small, insignificant things we do are like that, unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but they are the tiny lights that twinkle.

Hazel, some people are Busy (I LOVE your theory of Richard Scarry careers!). Others are not. I think we need all kinds, and it would be lovely if we could manage to let each other be to manage as best we can, no matter what our preferred level of achievement. I also love that wonderful fisherman story, and think of it a lot when I am tempted to do something 'more important' than what I do in my current pleasant and relaxed little life. Instead I tell myself to shush and remember what a fortunate woman I am to be able to do as much pottering as I do:)

Linda, yes... and here is the amazing pay-off of accepting ourselves as not particularly special - we are probably some of happiest people in the world, as we are not pursuing the ridiculously unfulfilling pursuit of being important..
Jo said…
Laura, yes, I think if we can just get on and do what we have to do, help where we can, and do what we love, then we are the most incredibly fortunate human beings - everything else is pretty much fairy floss.
simplelife said…
It really is the little things isn't it.
Deep down I'm quite content in my life, but I'm afraid to share or show that. Feeling either too fortunate or too afraid of being judged, but when I sit and be honest with myself, I have all I ever dreamed of, all I ever wanted. A simple, life with my family .
Cheers Kate
Hi Jo,

Happy winter solstice to you!

Beautiful photos and words. It is nice to take some time out to have a look around us and see what it all looks like. Plus you get to notice the nice sunsets!



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