Friday, December 16, 2011

A Light for all Seasons

         I’ve strung bright bulbs on the branches at my front door, but even this radiant glow can’t stall the steady approach of the longest night of the year. Here in the Northwest where I live, the season ushers in overcast skies and somber weather—a time when light becomes a treasured commodity.
Flickr Photo by Zhang 
            At this time of year, I am reminded of my friend Linda who found a light that brightened every day when she entered a personal season of darkness. This darkness descended, not with the turning of calendar pages, but a slow slurring in her speech. Medical consultations identified the loss of control in her vocal cords as an early symptom of an unstoppable, degenerative disease.
            A corporate trainer and vigorous athlete, she responded to the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease—by strapping on her rollerblades for a five-day distance event. She wanted to move while she still could. As the disease progressed, her steps grew slow and uncertain. She walked her in neighborhood with braces wrapping her legs, and an arm held firmly by her husband. And as she walked, she looked for evidence of light along her path.
         “I feel as if I am still normal when I am out walking in nature,” she told me in an e-mail message, written after she had lost the ability to speak.
             “What I love the most about nature is the light. Everywhere I look, even on darker days, there is light reflecting something positive someplace. I just need to look around. As I walk, I seek to follow the light,” she said. Linda’s emails grew into an interview in Healing Walks for Hard Times. 
Following The Light
         This morning I took a walk with Linda. No longer present in body, she lives strong and vibrant in my head, reminding me how light still emerges, even when days seem shrouded in gray. How it lightens the tassels on decorative grasses in a neighbor’s yard. Or brightens bare branches of a birch. How it pulls my gaze to an overturned leaf lying at my feet.
            The search for light stretches into a game that carries me through half an hour of mindful walking, intentionally choosing to focus on the light around me rather than ruminating on the shadows in my mind. Like most of us, I find it natural and automatic to fixate on the challenges or shadows that drop into my path. I want to solve the problem. Eliminate the pain. But taking a break from that fixation can expand perspective with a reminder to see a broader picture.
            Why don’t you try it and see? A search for the light that brightens your walk may carry you on an internal journey that illuminates other corners of your life as well. And at this time of year, it reminds us of life cycles, and the longer days and lighter walks that wait beyond the Winter Solstice. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carolyn,

    This is a truly beautiful post! I'm planning to walk home from work tonight (for the exercise) and was dreading it until I read this. Now I will spend the hour looking for signs of light.

    Thanks for writing this post.



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