Falling Into the Abyss


The days are getting longer, and the moon falls these days into the Pacific Ocean, right over the Golden Gate Bridge, from the kitchen window of my house, in a place called View. From the vantage point of the Northern Hemisphere, we are facing into winter, that time of darkness, and already the days – one moment at a time – are longer and longer.

I have fallen into the Abyss, and I am grateful – yes!

We are conditioned to not fall into the Abyss, either the Abyss that is out there in the world, or the Abyss that is our-selves:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…

rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953


To choose, to accept, even to welcome the falling into the Abyss is counter-cultural.  To choose to go deep, to go into the deep, the deepest and darkest place, is something we humans do anything to avoid.   Unless we have learned – through practice and experience – that it is in the deep, in the darkness within, that we find greatest light – Light! – we will use our precious energy on all things to avoid that darkness, and finally, that Light.

What are the things we choose?

Some of us choose drugs – alcohol, and other things.  They work, for awhile.  Some of us put a on cheerful face , like pancake makeup, before we leave our house.  After awhile, the cheerful face fools us, more than anyone else.  Some of us work way too hard, staying busy, to avoid the deep and the dark.  Some of us fill our calendars with more dates and more activities in order to stay away from the edge of our sadness and grief.  Some of us eat.  Some of us subtly – or not so subtly – control the people around us.  We tell them what to do, we manipulate the relationship, until the relationship is a web of unexpressed feelings, anger and rage.  Some of us worry, keeping our minds occupied so that we can focus on the worries and not the reality of the moment.  Some of us try to save the world, while we remain unsaved, ourselves.  Some of us are cheerful, maddeningly so, smiling and giggling through the worst of events so that no uncomfortable feeling can emerge.

As communities, we too avoid darkness.  In the days following 9/11, I remember vividly and with great sadness how talk soon turned to war and retaliation.  A loss of that magnitude requires a journey into the depths, the depths of grief and despair, before our minds and hearts are on solid enough footing to know the next best action.  Wisdom and true action, clear action, arise out of the ashes of despair, not out of the best clear thinking – and the best clear thinking is not even possible without a grimy journey through the ashes of despair.


I have taken this journey before, and mostly, I have gone “ungently.”  In other words, I have fought to stay positive, to remain as happy as possible, to stay busy, to not say the truth:  “I am lonely.  I am sad.  I am afraid.”

What my long and deep journey has taught me, however, is that it is the dance with despair itself that begins to have a rhythm.

Now, I fall.  Then, I will rise.

Now, all is dark.  Then, all is Light.

Now, I control.  Then, I am free.

Now, I am in chains.  Then, I dance!


In my reflections, I have written before that the only right action, the only possible action we can take, is the action of surrender.  Surrender to what-is.  Surrender to what presents itself.  Surrender, even if it doesn’t feel good.  Surrender, even if all is lost.  Surrender, even if this is not what I want.  Breathe, let go, allow, avoid a fight.  Breathe again.

In my experience, the only journey worth taking is the journey into the darkness. I have been to some very dark places, and in those places I have learned that I am not alone.  I have learned I am not alone only because I have been to those dark places.  Unless I had gone, I could not say “I am not alone.”  In those dark places, I have learned that there is hope, and hope is more powerful than you and I can ever, ever suspect.

Now, when grief arises, I fight to stay away from grief, just like you do.  I fight to stay happy, like everyone else.  That’s always the first way, the socially acceptable way, after all.  Then, I begin – slowly, like a toddler learning to stand, carefully and awkwardly but with determination – to accept. I fall.

Then, I  am grateful.


Happy, happy and blessed New Year, all! 




American Robins are fairly large songbirds with a large, round body, long legs, and fairly long tail. Robins are the largest North American thrushes, and their profile offers a good chance to learn the basic shape of most thrushes. Robins make a good reference point for comparing the size and shape of other birds, too.



You are silence on the branch

outside my front window – you and your beloved,

hidden one.

You  shrieked all morning,

calling me to the window, bewildered.

You are silence on the branch

in the storm-waiting air.

Occupied now with waiting,

we sense the approaching storm.

You have disappeared into this vast,



full – moment of waiting.

The air.  You.  Me.

We are full-of-waiting.





Into the Darkness


The days are still growing shorter, people in colder climates are dressing with warmer clothes, winter-proofing cars, and carefully navigating days when the temperature hovers around 32 degrees Farenheit. Here in the warmer climates, those of us who come from colder places have a longing for colder days!

This time of waiting – of waiting for the light, the longest night and shortest day, which will relentlessly move into longer days, one moment at a time – is a time, as I wrote in an earlier post, to go into the deeper, darker places of ourselves.

Maybe we do this naturally, without guidance. Many women in particular confide that as the days grow shorter, they do some “cocooning,” going inside, baking, cleaning the dark spaces in the house, taking care of things that in the sunshine days did not seem important. In this season of darkness, there is time and space for taking care of these things.

What do we find in those cobwebby, shadowy places in ourselves? We often find tears there. We discover grief, even grief that has been forgotten, or set aside. We may find things we didn’t ever want to see again. We find things we didn’t want to remember, perhaps. We see the faces and the memories of those who are no longer with us – how we wish we could see them again, one more time! Words may arise in us, things that were said; perhaps those unsaid things arise in our thoughts, as well. We have carried those unspoken words with us, hanging in the air between us and another.

When we go into the darkness of ourselves, we may find things we don’t want to find – or to see! We may discover some feelings we wish we didn’t have: jealousies, hates, fears, terrors. We may remember someone who abused us, someone who tried to keep us from becoming our truest selves, because their own dark places were never explored.

Or we find confusing things, things we will never understand.

Sometimes when we go inside ourselves, we may discover something with complete clarity, something we’ve always known. There, touching it again for the first time in many years, our knees on the hard wooden floor of our memory, we begin to see it glimmer. Maybe that clarity is something we need desperately, now. We are grateful.

During this season of this year, there is much talk about the system of racism that pervades us as a country, as a people. Liberal or conservative, socially progressive or longing for values that don’t seem to exist anymore, we seem to be having a conversation we have needed to have for a long time. We may be hopeful, we may find hope as a people in those under-belly places of our collective psyche, or we may find even more hopelessness than we have now. As you think about the happenings of these past few months, I invite you to listen to the Bill Moyers’ interview of journalist Ta-Nehisi as he frames the nation’s history of slavery and white supremacy in challenging terms.

Sometimes when we go within – as a people, as individuals – we may find unresolved things that cannot, will not be easily resolved. We may cry or shout or rage again and again, and this may never end.

It is interesting that this season of darkness that brings us face to face with the light is associated with hope. Maybe it’s more appropriate to call it Hope, with a big H. We all need this hope, and it’s something we can’t buy at the stores, at the busy malls. I think maybe Hope arises from that journey into the darkness.

“All shall be well, all shall be well, all shall be well.” Julian of Norwich, mystic.


A Time to Wait





As each day passes, each day becomes shorter at this time of year. We are in the season of darkness. In ancient days, the coming of the darkness made people move inward, into their warm places, into their huts, into their caves, where fires were lit to keep the dark at bay.

The time of entering the dark is with us, as well. In the ancient tradition of the Christian faith, the time of entering the dark is called Advent. Darkness is entered with the expectation that this time is the Advent, the Coming of the Light.

More earth-based cultures than ours awaited that longest night and shortest day, the Solstice, which would be celebrated with bonfires, dancing, and ceremony.

It is no mistake that the festivals of Light, Hannukah, of Christmas, of Solstice celebrations, take place at this time of the year.  These festivals of light emerged, I am certain, from people who were eager to turn to the Light as soon as it emerged.


We are not a people given to turning ourselves over to the darkness. We are so afraid of darkness! A cultural trait of Americans, for example, is that Americans tend to be upbeat, to smile, to put a positive spin on all things. There is no place in our native psyche for darkness.

Darkness, though, is part of life. To deny the darkness is to be in denial of reality. I like to say: “there is no way through except through.”   By that I mean, one must descend into the darkness of the self in order to grow and to become richer and deeper
in all ways. The journey toward wholeness, toward being fully ourselves, is a journey that includes a descent into whatever darkness each one of us holds within us. And when we have taken that journey into darkness – as Persephone did in the ancient, ancient, ancient story – we emerge, complete, whole. We come into the Light as our true selves, the Light we truly are.

We cannot be free of our darkest selves – and we all have those dark places! – until we have gone to that place within ourselves where we face the darkest place and learn to love that place.

Life is a cycle, a cycle of good and bad, of true and untrue, of dark and light.  Life is a cycle, and each one of us, whether we are conscious of it or not, is taking part in the cycle.

It is also a truth that when we do not face the darkness within ourselves, we will project that place onto others.  Many of us recall a former President who called the then-Soviet Union, “The Evil Empire.”  If we are honest, we know that we are the evil one to others who do not share our values, our history, and our place.  Unless we have faced our own darkness, we will continue to look to others to be that darkness for us.

Early last evening, I heard demonstrators on the street.  I went out onto the porch to see hundreds of people marching, chanting:  “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…”  People are out on the streets of the United States now, protesting, as loudly as they can, against our own national shame of projecting darkness onto those who have dark skin.  We are them.  They are us.  We are one.

We cannot know one-ness, we cannot know whole-ness, until we have taken that descent into our deepest, darkest places.  Until we do, we will only expect from others what we are not willing to expect from ourselves.  We will not know true freedom, and hope, and love.

I trust that you will not avoid this time of darkness by running for the nearest light!  We do that, of course, when we play Christmas music in the malls in September, when we only want to hear good news, when we do not allow others the space to cry and to grieve, when our saddest and difficult feelings are not honored, because we do not allow these things in ourselves.

Take this time of Advent – of the Coming of the Light – to go deep, to travel deep within, to go into the darkness.  Acknowledge your own dark places.  You will find, as I have, as so many others who have taken this journey have – that there is only Light in that darkest place.

But you have to descend to know.