As happens every year, December 21st has the distinction of having the most hours of darkness out of any other calendar day. It is also the setting of one of my favorite poems – Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost.
A lot of people find this time depressing, especially those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. And to be sure, there is a lot to feel depressed about right now, with a global pandemic that is still wildly out of control, many of us cut off from friends and family for an unthinkable 9th month, and our freedom of movement significantly curtailed as any kind of travel has become severely detrimental to public health and safety.
I’ve always felt the opposite though. Because while today is indeed the day with the least amount of sunlight – that all changes tomorrow. Every day going forward from today we gain about a minute more light in our days. This is the nadir.
I think this is also a pretty good metaphor for where we find ourselves with respect to the terrible loss we’ve experienced this year. It is true that we are seeing pain and death on a scale none of us could have imagined even as the first reports about this virus started to come in. But as each day brings us a little more sunlight, it also brings us closer to the light at the end of this miserable tunnel. It’s hard to see it, in the depths of winter, when darkness and coldness rule, but the seasons do change. Rebirth comes. The thaw is always just around the corner.
As of today over half a million people in the United States have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Think about that for a minute. Last week that number was zero! And just a couple of months ago, it was uncertain if anyone would ever be free of this terrible disease! And that’s not all – new technology is going to allow us to do home testing as soon as next month, and new treatments will be cutting down the danger from this virus even for people who DO get sick.
The next few weeks will likely feel terrible. Thousands of people will continue to die each day, tens of thousands will become seriously ill, it will be cold and dark and miserable.
But each day will be slightly brighter, each day will mean more people are vaccinated, and each day means we are a little closer to the end of this terrible pandemic – a true Spring after an entire year of Winter. Even though it won’t feel like it, this really is the virus’s Battle of the Bulge (or Battle of Morannon if we want to keep it in Middle Earth). A final lashing out, with innumerable casualties, but ultimately signaling the last gasp of a terrible enemy. In the midst of battles like this, it can feel hopeless, but just as surely as tomorrow will be a little brighter than today, all we have to do is survive to the other side and it will be clear that the tide had turned.
This blog is generally about escapism and being on adventures, traveling far from home into new locations and surroundings. It’s not a medical or survival blog. But right now, we are ALL living in a medical/survival blog.
And it is today that I think it is imperative that we keep that thought in our minds over the coming dark months. We will get to the end of this. Life will get back to normal. We will be back on the road or on an island somewhere appreciating the beauty of this world we live in. We just have to remind ourselves that when the day is darkest – that’s literally when things start to get brighter.
As is often the case, this is a good opportunity to revisit the source material for the name of this blog:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Tomorrow will be brighter than today.