The Importance of Darkness

By M. F. Erler

The Importance of Darkness 

I recently wrote a blog on the value of light in our world, but I also touched on the importance of darkness, when I mentioned how our artificial lights block out the wonders of the night skies.  I have a friend living on a farm outside Grangeville, Idaho who takes amazing pictures of the night skies.  Of course, she has a special camera and other equipment, but she is also out in the country where the city lights don’t wash out the stars.

This past year, I began to explore the idea of our need for darkness.  Many people in our urban world are now sleep-deprived, scientists tell us, because we’ve washed out the night with all our city lights.  I read a book by Jules Verne, written in the mid-1800s, that lauded the advent of artificial light as a boon to mankind, because now people could work round the clock, with no need to “waste time” in sleep.  No one had thought of the vital nature of sleep to our bodies and minds back then, apparently.

Another thing I ran across in my reading this past year was “The dark night of the soul.”  This idea originated with John of the Cross, a monk in the late Middle Ages, who for his beliefs was imprisoned in solitary confinement for several years by the Spanish Inquisition.  Yet, instead of telling of how terrible this lonely darkness was, he praised it was a time of great “enlightenment” to him.  There’s irony for you.Maybe this is what our world needs, not more artificial light, but genuine darkness, a place to recharge our spiritual batteries.  Something that none of our technology can do for us.

My Favorite Holiday Books

By Jenny Mattern

As a child, it never truly felt like the Christmas season had begun until we’d gotten out our collection of holiday books. I have no idea where my mom tucked them away the rest of the year, but when she hauled out the box containing ​Claude the Dog​, ​Mousekin’s Christmas Eve, ​and all the others, I knew it wouldn’t be long until we’d be hanging stockings and putting up the tree.

One of my favorite holiday books was our paperback copy of ​A Child’s Christmas in Wales​, written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and originally published in 1952. In my memory, I can hear my dad reading it aloud to my brother and me sometime during the holidays. Back then I didn’t understand most of the lyrical language, but the ebb and flow of the beautiful words managed to work their way into my soul.

As an adult, I’ve tried to recreate some of that literary Christmas magic with my own children.

Through the years we’ve read Rumer Godden’s ​The Story of Holly and Ivy​ countless times, and Barbara Robinson’s ​The Best Christmas Pageant Ever ​still makes us laugh.

If you were to ask my children to name a favorite Christmas Eve tradition, they would inevitably say our annual holiday-light drive. We pile into the car, pop a digital copy of ​A Child’s Christmas in Wales ​(read by Dylan Thomas himself) into the CD player, and let his mellifluous voice wash over us as we head out onto snowy streets searching for the prettiest decorations and the brightest lights.

This year, more than most, I’m looking forward to seeing those twinkling lights shining through the darkness while Dylan Thomas carries me back to a simpler time. 

“All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.”

As the lyrical story draws to a close and we’re nearly back to our own driveway, I know my dad’s voice will replace Thomas’s in my mind. And the final paragraph will inevitably bring tears to my eyes as I remember simpler Christmases of my own.

“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

Gifts for Writers!

By Kathy Dunnehoff

Maybe you have a writer on your holiday list, or maybe you’re a writer who would like to treat yourself. (It’s been a tough year. You deserve it!)

But how many coffee mugs can one person use?

Okay, a lot. But let me tell you about some other items that I love and use. I’m not going to list where to get these things since you are all able to do an internet search in about two seconds, so let’s get to it…

My favorite office purchase ever? Well, I bought one of those yoga balls you sit on, and instead I ended up doing more rolling than writing. Then I found a chair frame that you can put the yoga ball into, and it’s awesome! My back feels great, and if I’m bored, I can bounce on it like an elementary school kid.

What else do I rely on almost every day? My writing calendar. I get mine free from anyone who is giving them away in December, but treat your writing friend or yourself to a really nice one. There are encouraging ones and gorgeous ones. I’ve seen some that made me laugh out loud in the store. Pick the one that will make 2021 a great writing year. I use mine by writing down how many words I finish each day and then I put a…

Sticky star in the box! You think a sticky star won’t motivate you, but I can guarantee you it will. None of us have forgotten the joy of seeing a star on our work. Make it happen again!

And while you’re stocking up on office supplies that kick it up a notch, get three-hole-punched copy paper for your three ring binders. Do not try to punch your own because the holes will never line up, and you’re worth the extra few dollars.

Also, give decent pens a chance while you’re at it. I may be happy to pick up a free calendar, but I do not write with freebie pens. It’s gel ink for me, and while we all get to define what we think makes a great pen, I will arm wrestle for a Pilot G-2 07 Fine point.

What else is on my gift-giving/gift-receiving list? I have to say I will buy just about anything with a typewriter on it! I wrote on one for years and do not miss the experience, but I love the nostalgic look of them. Things with typewriters on them I’ve treated myself to over the years? Notebooks, t-shirts, a rhinestone pin, a birdhouse, a picture frame, and several coffee mugs… because you really can’t have too many of those!

Happy Holidays!