Light fading, time passing, big boy is ten, baby isn’t a baby and the time for having babies is over. The pregnant woman in the check-out line and it’s eleven years ago, pregnant with my own belly of hope and love, on the threshold of everything new and exciting. There was pain then, too, but it’s the joy and anticipation that come flying from past to present now, another layer of recognition that a stage of life is over. Oh, this life. Oh, the highly sensitive soul with the acute awareness of the passage of time and how it just keeps on marching on.
Light fading, time passing, my birthday week. When the years are filled with more wisdom and equanimity, why does a birthday bring grief? It’s not the birthday itself; it’s the transition, that a new age can only happen by letting go of the old. There’s a birth and a death. It’s the law of transitions, of every rite of passage. It’s the heart of my work, my deepest passion, and yet every year I dread the time change, the loss of an hour of light.
“It’s a melancholic time,” my husband says. “And beautiful.” A strong strain of melancholy runs in his artists’ soul. He seems more welcoming of the loss of the light than I do. I find it no coincidence that I was born shortly after the time change. The Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman, says that we go through transitions much the same way that we come into the world (breach, “late”, c-section, natural). Perhaps it’s also true that our soul’s callings are connected to the season inside which we were born. I know there are people who welcome the darkness, who feel at home in months that require insulation. I do, too, but it takes me a little while to get there.
“It’s a time of loss,” my husband says, reminding me of everything I teach. It’s the time when old losses filter up to consciousness. The loss of his father. The loss of my grandmother. Her birthday week as well. I miss her. I sense her close now. I see her roses behind my eyelids. I feel the light of her smile when she greets me at the front door. I taste her chopped string beans and barbecue chicken and salad fresh from my grandfather’s garden. She was one of my angels, and is still.
I listen to my clients and readers this week and hear a chord of loss for many of them: a grandmother passing; a relationship that didn’t bloom; the memories of mothers and fathers that are no longer here. We hold hands through this birth canal, all of us tender human souls that must endure loss as part of our stay on this planet. For those of us that are attuned to transitions, a time change is a portal and we’re squeezing ourselves through it, contorting uncomfortably to the rhythm.
There is one accessible relief for the discomfort. It’s the medicine that nature-psyche-soul has given us for loss: we grieve. What starts as emptiness as I watch the fading light an hour earlier than my body expects turns into fullness once the tears drop like rain into my inner well. I cry and write and surrender to what is. There is no fighting nature; the seasons change and time passes and no matter what humans exert onto this great, beautiful planet we will never change these laws of nature. She is teaching us, always, the perfection of her rhythms, that when we surrender and grieve – which means stopping long enough to allow the tears to rise up and release – we are offered an opportunity to tend to the sadness that lives in the heart. It’s so easy to run from it during the warm, active seasons of endless daylight. These shorter days signal the beginning of the time to turn inward, to snuggle into the sacred and vulnerable places and allow for the emptiness, the fallow time, from which the new seeds for next spring’s rebirth will gestate. When we breathe into the darkness instead of running from it, we remember that there is nothing to fear.
It’s a time of longing, too, when the constant hum of empty places that can be silenced during busy times is unleashed. In this liminal zone, when the light fades and we have yet to embrace the heavenly frosty fields, all that is pushed down comes back. Through dreams, through memory, through that familiar ache that tells of the unlived places, we encounter for one brief moment our deepest longings: for mother, for childhood, for father, for family, for purpose, for meaning, for aliveness. That one moment is our gold, or small white flying figures that come to help us heal. What would it be like to move toward those figures instead of brush them away?
There is medicine for longing as there is for grief: to meet it. Not to hide it under the covers but to face it in light – sunlight or moonlight – to stay with it like a vulnerable child even when the slippery ache of it makes you want to run. “St. John [of the Cross] is willing to fall off the edge, to follow the longing down to its source,” writes Roger Housden in Ten Poems to Change Your Life. Follow the longing. Name it. Speak it aloud. Dance it. This is how we make love with longing: enraptured in silk sheets instead of locking it away with shame. This is how we transform emptiness into fullness and fill another layer in the well.
Nature’s rhythm is the compass. All we have to do is get our small, scared selves out of the way long enough to follow. To lie down on a soft bed and watch the blue light turn to black against a fiery sky. To feel the salty tears, drops of the great mother sea, making starlight trails down cheeks. To allow memories to surface. To grieve the end of childhood. To talk to the ones we’ve lost. To say, “I miss you,” and hear, “I’m here, dear one. I’m here.”