“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu
This will surprise exactly no one, but I bought way too many daffodil bulbs. This past year, we moved from a “farmette” on four acres to an in-town house on a quarter of an acre. I ordered bulbs this past summer and thought, “Why not just get the same amount that we had before? It’ll be a daffodil-palooza!” Where did I think I was going to plant two-hundred bulbs on this little corner lot that is mostly filled up with the house and garage?
So, last month, as I crawled around our front beds trying to find spots for all of these bulbs, I was questioning not only my own decision-making ability, but also the general wisdom of planting bulbs.
I spent the morning digging hole after hole in really dark dirt. I placed these dried, papery bulbs six inches into the earth and then covered them back up on a cold day. I started to feel foolish; it felt kind of delusional to think these very unpromising looking bulbs would ever bloom. If I hadn’t seen with my own eyes how the tiny green shoots emerge months later, I might have given up. But I have seen it. And every single spring, it takes my breath away.
It’s amazing how these tiny little bulbs somehow push up through the cold dirt, reaching for sunlight. And year after year, against all odds, they produce gorgeous flowers in shades of yellow and white and even light pink.
Sometimes, my spring self has to remind my winter self that we’ve been here before. And that things that seem impossible are actually quite likely.
It’s one of the gifts of being middle-aged: you have enough experience to know that what feels like the end of something is just a rest period between seasons. It’s worth taking a minute to remember times of healing and hope. I can scroll back through my own history and see specific times when my depression has lifted. I remember the relief of those moments. Because I have felt the shift within my own mind, I can trust that even when things feel dark, that they won’t always stay that way.
It’s part of what makes human beings so resilient—we believe in seemingly impossible things—because we have some history or memory or experience that reminds us to hope. We know that even when we can’t see it, there are hidden treasures reaching for light.
One of my favorite expressions of prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. When you want to let someone know that you are praying for them, you say that you are “holding them in the light.” When I pray for people, I actually visualize holding their grief or hurt or worry in God’s light and love. When I lift someone in prayer, I am asking that they be surrounded by God’s love and mercy. The light is something we all yearn for and need and seek.
I count myself as one of the many creatures who spend a good bit of the winter reaching towards light. I know that darkness is necessary for rest and that it is simply part of the rhythm of nature. I don’t love it though and spend a lot of time each winter figuring out how to bring more light into our lives. One of my favorite things about Advent is the lighting of the candles during worship and on our home wreath. I love the image of the light in the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it. It reminds me that light is vital and worthy of pursuit.
Each winter, I like to imagine the bulbs in the ground yearning, reaching, stretching for the light. The bulbs aren’t like, “I could take it or leave it. No big deal if there isn’t any light above.” They want and need the light. I do, too. I reach for it through Advent and darkness and winter. I will hold all of you in the light.