• Darrow Woods

Finding light in the 'grey zone'

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

With the COVID pandemic, 2020 has been a difficult year. But it is not all darkness.

The sun sits over the horizon at Linden Beach. The end of each year marks the waning of light and the promise of renewal. Photo by Joe Kungel.

A political leader, speaking of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, said he saw “light at the end of the tunnel,” as a way to express his hope that things will get better.

The cynic in me worries that light at the end of the tunnel is from an oncoming train.

The optimist says, “Yes!”

My inner wannabe poet is drawn into a reverie about our fascination with light.

It seems to me the Christmas lights went up early this year. Some of our neighbours have kept them on since the beginning of COVID.

Light makes us feel better. We are drawn to it.

When this column “sees the light of day,” we will have already experienced the Winter Solstice. Did you see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn? The internet brims over with photos of the marvelous lights and speculation that the apparent meeting of these planets in the southwestern sky was the cause, more than 2,000 years ago, of the Bethlehem Star.

Our view locally was obscured by the persistent cover of grey clouds. My inner cynic speaks up again and says, “that figures!” The image at the top of this column was captured by Joe Kungel, a Kingsville photographer, at Linden Beach. Joe says the sun is sitting at about the same position over the horizon as the conjunction, if it had been visible. It’s not the Star of Bethlehem but I’ll take it. I need all the light I can get.

At this time of year there are, depending on who’s counting, somewhere between 10 and 29 distinct spiritual celebrations and religious festivals, from cultures around the globe. In many of them, ancient and modern, light represents hope, joy, new life, direction and wisdom.

We talk about enlightenment, and we hear the phrase “follow the light” and remember Dylan Thomas’s mournful “rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

Each winter In the Northern Hemisphere we live through the waning of the light, and the shortening of days, that coincides with the end of a calendar year. The new year begins soon after the days have started to get longer again. The symbolism is powerful. The old year ran out of steam, and light, and with the birth of the new, energy is renewed.

Many of us will be happy to see the end of 2020. The year has been clouded over, in so many ways. But it has not all been darkness.

I was talking just two days before Christmas with friends who’ve founded and maintain the Community Pantry in Harrow. The church I serve gives them space to store food donations, so we see each other often.

They picked the right year to start their charity, with so many families facing food insecurity in our COVID economy.

When Catie, Taylor, Steve and Teri talk about their work with Project Hope, their eyes literally light up. I see joy there, even when they tell me about families who live on the edge of darkness and despair. They don’t share names, and may not even know them. The Community Pantry is a place where people can be anonymous, and are free to pick up food and essentials, without strings or bureaucratic details to add to their worries.

Teri told me about a family that came seeking food two weeks ago, but returned this week with four bags of groceries to donate. They were grateful for the help they received and wanted to pay it forward.

We need light in our lives and the things light represents. When things cloud over and the darkness seems to be closing in, as it may seem to do for many as we live in this “grey zone” of a COVID lockdown, we need to be light for each other.

Darrow Woods is the minister at Harrow United Church. He lives in Kingsville.

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