Blessed Yule, my loves.
To those holding vigil tonight, thank you. To those who hold your vigils in a thousand different ways the year round, thank you.
Tonight we honor the idea of holding through the darkest times. Of watching the sun go down, as the nights get longer and longer, and keeping faith that someday the night will be shorter than the one before it. While the solstice marks the formal Longest Night, so many I know have been keeping their own vigils against fear and despair this year, independent of their place on the wheel.
'Getting better' is a long process, and one that happens by degrees. From the bottom of the wheel, we do not magically run up the spokes from darkness into light; we embrace the slow transition from hardship to bounty, from isolation to community, from grief into celebration. And always we know, as the year is a wheel, that even as we face our darkness knowing light will come, we must also know that the darkness will come again, and we will need those lessons we are now learning.
Tonight many people make much of "without the darkness the light cannot shine, you cannot appreciate the stars, you cannot embrace your joys." To most people I know, darkness is most valuable when its contrast gives meaning to the light.
This is true, but for me tonight's contemplations run much more to "Learning to embrace and accept each turn of darkness as it comes to me gives me tools and lessons that help me survive the dark to come."
It's my nature and my honor to burn brightly through the darkest times; what is hard for those who do not do that to understand is that the light of your own burning means that sometimes, all you see when you look out is blackness, because you're blinded by the flame you tend.
And sometimes, when it's at its very darkest, and your flame is hard to keep going, you have a moment where you're afraid you're going to lose it all, that the light you hold will go out, and you'll be there, alone, in perfect pitch blackness. Because, well, you know that theoretically there are other people out there, tending other fires. But what if they're not there, what if your flame goes out and you were...the last one burning?
Coming to peace with that fear is one of the hardest things, to say "I will burn as long as I am able, and when I can no longer burn, I will embrace the darkness."
For the last ten years, when my own flame has faltered, in the dimming of my light I could make out others, holding flame to help me rekindle. I have not yet failed in my winter burning.
But I have, several times, come to peace with the prospect of my light failing entirely, of being lost, alone and blinded, and that willingness to embrace the darkness not as a foil for the good times, but in itself, has given me a strength and an understanding I never really imagined I could have.