We're heading into the shortest days and darkest nights before the winter solstice occurs next week (12/22), though it may be hard to tell for sure since strings of holiday lights seem to be sprouting on tree branches and bushes and decorating house trim on a daily basis. I actually saw a house or two in a Beacon neighborhood that reminded me of the famously-lit homes in Bensonhurst-Brooklyn; white, blue and various multicolored lights seem to fend off the darkness like sentinels standing guard at Fort Knox. Everyone seems to be re-enacting the primal fear of the dark as if we are still vulnerable and living in caves and forests rather than the CFL-LED-halogen lit homes in which we currently reside. Perhaps the antidote to the frantic nature of holiday shopping and merriment is to make friends with the dark and allow it to become an enveloping comforter that invites us inward to seek out the warmth of burning logs in the fireplace and flickering candlelight that dances in the night. This feeling is actually created during the season of Advent when one candle is lit each week on the four consecutive Sundays before Christmas. As you see the illumination growing from one to two to three to four candles, you have recapitulated the return of the sun and the lengthening of the days with the recollection of the hope, peace, joy and love symbolized by the successive tapers standing tall in the Advent wreath. It's a natural way to recapture the light, just like the annual appearance in mid-December of the Geminids, a meteor shower that features more than 75 meteors per hour for a spectacular display during the darkest hours before dawn at its peak, reminds us that there is much light in the dark. Each year the "shooting stars" peak on 12/13 and 12/14, but the gibbous moon this year, along with the man-made light pollution, may impede the viewing of this fantastic light show. But a good viewing location in this part of the Hudson Highlands would be on Route 9D across from Storm King Mountain where one could hope to meet some like-minded stargazers in the turnout with a thermos of hot cocoa, bundled with hat and scarf, looking above to the heavens where north-south transects east-west close to the constellation Gemini from midnight through dawn.
Some food for thought: So it might be a good idea to 'wish-on-a-star' tonight and then use this upcoming week of the darkest nights to pause, reflect and meditate on the magic of the natural seasonal gifts that aren't purchased in the malls or on Main Street. The gift of silence. The gift of deep breathing. The gift of simplicity. The gift of paying attention. The gift of anticipation. The gift of kindness. The gift of solitude. The gift of trust. The gift of knowing who you are and what you want. The gift of courage to stand alone in the dark. The gift of your very own inner light to guide you.