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.”

An Author Not On Face Book

By Ann Minnett

This Author Deactivated Facebook

I recently deactivated my Facebook accounts, both private and professional. Regurgitated news stories, ad scams for too-good-to-be-true products, and political ‘falsehoods’ from friends and strangers did not add to my quality of life.

Why did I linger on Facebook for over a decade? First, I stayed to communicate with readers on my writer page, although very few engaged me there. The real reason was FOMO–Fear of Missing Out. I wanted to know what my kids and a few writer friends were up to. That part was nice. Lately, I realized 5-7 people have dominated my timeline with food pics, sensational summer hikes, or why/why not wear a mask. Of course, a few just posted selfies every day. I’ll admit to posting my fair share.

Facebook invited me to compare my insides to others’ outsides—an unhealthy trap that left me wanting. Mostly, I wondered how in the world these people kept so busy and had all those friends. Didn’t they ever just read a book? I guess not because few if any posted a selfie holding an open book on the deck overlooking the lake.

Yes, I’m a tad cranky these days.

Anyway, not only do I feel less consumed by social media, but the absence of Facebook has given me back 30 minutes in the morning and untold minutes throughout each day. Win!

If you’d still like to contact me, let’s connect through:

Twitter @ann_minnett

Instagram @annminnett

https://annminnett.com

11-15-20

Postscript:

I’ve learned a few things about myself since I gave up on Facebook.

  1. I missed photos of my grandkids that don’t seem to make it to my email account.
  2. There are a handful of people I like to check in on. Some might call this stalking.
  3. Most posts don’t require my endorsement, displeasure, or opinion. Refreshing!
  4. FOMO is real in the time of COVID-19.

You guessed it. I can once again be reached at https://www.facebook.com/annminnettwriter

Humbly,

Ann

Excerpt from “Beyond the World”

By M. F. Erler

“Image 2”

It felt so good to stretch his muscles after all the ages of confinement.  A laugh rumbled deep inside him, and a sudden puff of smoke came from his nostrils.  This made him laugh again with delight, and the smoke became a red-orange flame.

            Ah, yes, this was his favorite form.  All too often he had to disguise his true identity—posing perhaps as a handsome human male with sleek dark hair—sometimes as a threatening animal, such as a wolf.  The form he most detested, though, was when he had to imitate the golden glowing body of an angel, one of the Enemy’s trusted servants.

            This memory sent waves of rage through him, and bright blue flames shot from his mouth and nostrils.  He’d been one of them once—many eons ago—but now was cast out.  No matter how he tried to reassume his original form, it never quite fit anymore.  In fact, the very thought of it made him itch with an irritation that only got worse the more he scratched it with his long, curving claws.

            In anger he spread his huge leathery wings, admiring the dark shadows they cast across the landscape below, as he sat, perched on the edge of a craggy cliff.  At least now he was free of the chains that had bound him for so long. 

‘The Enemy thinks he has only released me for a time,’ he hissed to himself.  ‘But he underestimates me.  I still have powers he hasn’t seen, and when I unleash them…’

            The deep chuckling in his throat emerged as a roar.  This ominous sound echoed off the mountains all around, as he launched his huge serpentine form into space and took flight.  

First Snow Haiku

By Ann Minnett

Barbara Schiffman recently hosted a webinar about Haiku poetry. The term has expanded to include a variety of interpretations, but she and the attendees favored the more traditional 5-7-5 syllable version of Haiku. I made a brief attempt to keep a Haiku diary and vow today to resume the practice.

Our first substantial snowfall inspired me to write this.

First Snowfall

Pristine silence thuds

Pinpricks speckle lifted smiles

No work only peace.

Winter has arrived in NW Montana. Have a lovely week no matter where you call home.

~ Ann Minnett

10-18-2020