the deep down dark.

“The Companionable Darkness” by Kathleen Norris

Friend and neighbor you have taken away.
My one companion is darkness. -Psalm 88

The companionable dark
Of here and now,
seed lying dormant
in the earth. The dark
to which all lost things come—scarves
and rings and precious photographs, and
of course, our beloved
dead. The brooding dark,
our most vulnerable hours, limbs loose
in sleep, mouths agape.
The faithful dark,
where each door leads,
each one of us, alone.
The dark of God come close
as breath, our one companion
all the way through, the dark
of a needle’s eye.

Not the easy dark
of dust and candles, but dark
from which comforts flee.
The deep down dark
of one by one,
dark of wind
and dust, dark in which stars burn.
The floodwater dark
of hope, Jesus in agony
in the garden, Esther pacing
her bitter palace. A dark
by which we see, dark like truth,
like flesh on bone:
Help me, who am alone,
And have no help but thee.

The other evening our neighbor’s dog was barking, which Atticus found troubling. Lucky is a sweet dog, but she is rather large to a toddler, and she bounds around with a lot of energy. I am sure it’s scary when she bounds straight at him, and I am sympathetic to his desire not to be licked. You can tell he is also fascinated by her, asking me to walk over with him to see her and nudging me to pet her. He hates her barking, usually covering his ears so as not to hear her, and I assumed that was why he was tuned in to her noise. He ran to the window to see her, then trotted over to the front door, yanked it open, and started yelling. “Go inside, Lucky! You don’t want to be in the dark!”

Over the summer, we used the darkness as a measuring stick, making sure that Atticus knew that he should not get up before the sun and that he had to get to bed (well) before the dark. I can tell that the shorter days have confused him a little bit, especially since the time change. Short of rigging up some models of the earth and the sun, I am not sure how to explain all of that to him. Plus it is so dark outside that I can’t really be bothered to make models of things when I could be lounging in my pajamas.

I don’t like that the days are getting shorter, but I am used to it. Atticus has no context for such a thing, and waking up when it is still dark outside shakes him up a little bit. If one of us comes home after dark, he seems distressed. We have been teaching him to light candles and he makes his bright light known wherever he is, but this is one of those things that makes me realize how hard it is to be so new to the world and its ways.


I have been known to say that you can’t advent Advent, but people sometimes ask for my recommendations for readings for Advent, and a discussion of darkness seems like a good time to discuss books about waiting for the light of the world. Here are a few that I have enjoyed or have heard good things about.

Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro

I have not read this one (I would love to, hint hint), but I love Enuma Okoro’s writing so I am glad to endorse her.

God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas

I got this for Christmas last year, so I am looking forward to reading it this year. It goes through Epiphany, which I like, and it was edited by Gregory Wolfe of Image Journal.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. Nouwen

I participated in an online study of this book a few years ago, and enjoyed it. I like Nouwen’s writing, and the passages are short, which is always a plus.

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

My friend Katie loves this one, which I remember from my days of working in the Christian bookstore. It’s got readings from some of my favorites: Madeleine L’Engle, Kathleen Norris, Annie Dillard.

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

This was the first Advent book that Mike and I had much success with, and I think it will always be our favorite. It is a journey through time and space from modern times to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. We can’t wait to share it with Atticus.

Embodied Light: Advent Reflections on the Incarnation by Melissa Tidwell

I got a review copy of this from Netgalley and I am so glad I did. There is something particularly graceful in the way that this book talks about the Incarnation. It gives ways to embody our faith that are simple and meaningful and practical. I am not big on devotionals but I am glad I gave this one a chance. It was a perfect way to end a year in which I have thought a lot about how to be more present in my own body.

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