I woke up this morning into the pre-dawn darkness. There were no sounds at all. No sirens whirring. No trucks bouncing down 83rd Street. No helicopters sputtering while hovering over the West Side Highway. Silence and darkness. Two daunting, solemn states.
I got out of bed, shuffled to the kitchen and put the kettle on like every morning, navigating around the remnants of my cocktail party last night without turning on any lights at all. Beneath my window, none of the tiny backyards had any light either; all the red, green, blue and white lights on the fences or the one tiny evergreen were dark.
Almost instinctively, I struck a match to a single taper. That's all the light I wanted. That's the quality of light I wanted. I watched the flame lick the white wax for more fuel, moved by the unpredictable dance play that the light created on the chocolate wall behind.
I reviewed the evening before while I sipped green tea in the now softened morning. A year ago I wouldn't have imagined the blend of friends that met one another for the first time last night. Thespians met marketers; lawyers met artists and writers. Some I've know for twenty years. Some for twenty weeks.
I began to plan today. Well, this week really. I leave for Southeast Asia in 12 days for two months to work with Buddhist monks and Myanmar refugees. There are sturdy tropical clothes to buy, a proper suitcase to purchase, a list a mile long of gadgets and gizmos a dozen plugs that I must have for computers, phones, cameras. Then I realized what day it is.
December 21. The Winter Solstice. The day on which ancient peoples worshipped with huge bonfires hoping to invoke the sun to warm them once again as it had the year before. The uncertainty of warmth, light. No need to unpack the metaphor.
My candle ritual echoed that same willingness to believe in possibilities even in the utter darkness, I suppose.
Just a single candle made my day.