The Miracle of DarknessBy Sari Broner
This past fall, when everything fell, I sought solace on the ground. Walking, crushing the cunning containers filled with seeds, next year's trees and plants. The pine's arrowhead enclosures and aromatic sap. The spikey spheres and flower-shaped ones whose hard petals unfold to become seed-wings. The oblong Chinese puzzle box and curious monkey-paw with furry surface. The little blue hat of the eucalyptus.
All this life, enclosed, slips into the moist, dark ground & the enclosure is undone. It is like the underground life of all things hidden. The work of women & others who do for us, the language of the stranger, our desires and fears in the secret garden within. My roommate, Jack, who knows about plant life said, "Fall is another kind of Spring." In those days this past autumn when so many lost their lives, I found we were surrounded by life's beginnings. Now, we are in the time of gestation, when as my friend Erin says, each day will bring us a minute or two more light. What will we birth?
Light is seen only by its contrast with shadow, and darkness is found in lit territory. I don't deny the sweetness of sunlight, but speak to the miracle of darkness: Sometimes we notice ourselves as Jews by contrast.
Our day begins in the cool night when we bless our Source who brings on evenings. Our year begins in autumn. We, who value naming, pray to a G-d who is unnamed. In this act of praying to what cannot be named, we reverse day to night, to remind ourselves of mystery, and seek to experience what is beyond our comprehension.
If fall is a time of conception, then winter is a pregnancy. In darkness we are conceived and we conceive. In the dark womb, we are formed and nurtured. We heal in sleep and are replenished in solitude. Our dreams are adventures, rewritings or forecastings of what was or what is to come. It is the time when we cease to speak, and instead imagine the shape of our lives.
What is underground, invisible? We meditate and take the "talking cure" to seek these root systems in ourselves. As words have roots, so their histories are a tracing of history itself in dictionaries. Word roots are also called radicals, and when we seek to change the world or ourselves, we reveal the complicated root systems, and are called radicals.
In this culture, founded on racial dichotomy, whose purpose was to consolidate the wealth of a few upon the backs of a dark-skinned people, we find that we who were too dark to survive Europe's Nazism and its love of the light, have become "white." But are we? Our roots are often dark and I ask that we reclaim that identification. When we refer to sadness, madness, and evil, as darkness, and goodness as light, let us remember the beauty of darkness. We, who are the underground roots of Christianity & Islam, have been ashamed of our appearance in this culture, altering our features, marrying out into the longed-for safety of whiteness. Let us acknowledge our connections to all those who are pressed underground in these hierarchies of color: African Americans, Native Americans, Palestinians, Afghans, Asians or Latinos. Let us embrace darkness, our origin.
black, burnt umber & burnt sienna,
van dyke brown, nut brown & chocolate,
mahogany, burgundy, alizerine crimson, & rust,
midnight blue & pthalo blue
pthalo green & forest green