The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron, helping readers learn how to become a better writer. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. An Artist Date can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. Today, we sit on the dock to ponder the dark.
Here in Florida, winter means putting on a fleece jacket, a hat and warm socks if I go walking on the beach. Our winter, such as it is on this channel island, is gray, misty and windy. The wind is the worst. If you try and paddle out into Mosquito Lagoon you will most likely never leave dockside, which is why I have taken up residence on my favorite dock this day.
My knees are tight to my chest as I survey the cold, gray water and deserted beach. The wind is beating the waves into froth on their way into shore. Most people are either home or taking part in post-Thanksgiving shopping. Not even the birds are stirring today. I am sitting on the dock with a murky, weak sun that never comes out from behind the heavy cloud cover. Today it will completely disappear far earlier than seems right. I am wondering what it is about the darkest part of the year that seems to frighten or discomfort people.
The fear of the dark and the cold made sense when humans had reason to fear starvation or freezing to death. Ancient people brought evergreens into their homes and temples as symbols of life in the depths of winter—nature’s promise that life would continue somehow. Feasting in the darkest part of the year around the time of the winter solstice was their way of celebrating the end of the brutal cold, short days of winter and the hopeful arrival of warmer, longer days of spring.
I sit on my dock and wonder about modern people’s need to light their houses brighter than last year, their drive to eat themselves into stupors and hoard more things that will bore them in a matter of weeks. Are we still reacting to a fear of the dark at some primal level? Is there some part of us that believes the sun might not come up tomorrow morning? That must seem silly to the modern mind as it hides the last piece of pie. I wonder what would happen if we could actually be quiet and make peace with the dark for a time, so we could really appreciate what the returning of the light and warmer days might mean.
The muted sun is sinking lower and the sky growing darker as I think about my simple traditions for the weeks ahead. A good part of my holiday season will be spent watching migrating birds coming in to nest (herons, pelicans, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, and geese). I will read Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” with a cup of tea and a chocolate truffle on a china dish, as I do every holiday season. The children in my life will appear at various points to visit. And throughout it all, the stars will wheel above me (Orion, Lynx, and Cassiopeia), and the ocean will ebb and flow.
Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In December, we’re exploring the theme Night.