Tonight is the eve of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Since ancient times, this has been a season of both foreboding and expectancy, as one cycle ends and another begins. Our early ancestors watched the sun sink lower in the sky each day and feared it would disappear completely and leave them in darkness. They practiced sacred rituals—including bonfires and candles—intended to call forth the sun’s return.
Deep within me is a place that fears the light will not return. Especially here in the Pacific Northwest’s chill and gloom, where even a glimpse of the sun is a rare and cherished gift. On these cold, short winter days, focusing on the grief of loss and regret comes so much easier than noticing the joy of abundance.
If only a robin would sing outside my window.
If only my daughter still needed me.
If only my body looked and worked like it did when I was twenty.
If only my beloved cat, Mocha, had lived one more year.
If only I’d spoken to my mother before she died alone in a locked ward a thousand miles away.
And so I light a candle.
I light a candle to illuminate those dark, lonely, scary places within and without that I fear will swallow me into an underworld of perpetual shadow. I light a candle to honor all those who fear they’ve lost their way, to help us find our way home—together. To remind us that our true nature is the eternal light of awareness that connects us all.
I light a candle on this fifth night of Hanukkah, much as my great-grandfather Moses Bachelis would have done in nineteenth-century Kavshovita, Russia. And I affirm, as Rabbi Ted Falcon suggests: “I light this candle for the healing energies flowing now through every cell and every level of my being. I welcome this healing energy, and I bring the light of healing to any distress I find.” The focus phrase I carry with me for the fifth day of Hanukkah is: “I am healing.”
And it is good.