“The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.” — John 1:5 (CEV)
February is the shortest month of the year … or so our calendars tell us. Sometimes our bodies and spirits try to tell us a different story. The lack of daylight hours in winter along with the cold temperatures sometimes convince us that February is the longest month.
I just saw a graphic that says we have just “survived” the 10 darkest weeks of the year. The period from November 16 to January 22 represents 5 weeks on either side of the winter solstice and in the northern hemisphere and that makes it the time with the least daylight hours.
For me the first half of this period feels lighter with the various Christmas lights up in the cities but after Christmas those lights seem to quickly go out and leave January in the dark. A few years ago, while living in southern Ontario, we went through a stretch in January without out any days of sunshine. When the clouds finally cleared and we felt the sunshine, it put all of us in a better mood. Sunshine and light can do that!
I am often struck by the beauty of the sunrise. There is a moment before the sun shows itself above the horizon, when the sky lightens and various colours can be seen. To call this a sunrise is not quite accurate. As I stand waiting to see the sun, it is actually the earth’s rotation that moves me into the path of the sun’s rays. It is as if the earth and sun are collaborating to grant me this joyful experience we call sunrise.
I have made it a practice to go out and find places to experience the sunrise, to stand still and allow the earth’s movement to place me in a position to receive the light of the sun. I find this particularly healing in winter, even on mornings when the temperature drops below -30º C. My first glimpse of the sun burst above the horizon can warm my spirit if not my fingers.
On these chilly mornings I also take my camera and even though the images never completely capture the joy of sunrise, I do enjoy receiving these images and sharing them with others. This year I decided to end 2023 watching and photographing my last glimpse of the sun for the year and followed it with my first view of the sun in the new year. I share some of those photos here as a benediction for the year that was and a blessing for 2024 and all that lies ahead.