A candle in the window, the silver glow of the moon, the orange flames of a crackling fire on a cold winter’s night. Illumination. Bringing light to the darkness is important to many cultures in the long dark months of winter. When I first moved to Wales, someone told me that I would learn to appreciate the sunlight after many cloudy, grey days. I enjoy all the seasons and rainy days are good for many things, but my first spring there was a miraculous love fest with the sunshine. And all that rain had made everything so green.
A visit back to my home in the Midwestern US has repeatedly reminded me that the cold snowy days and sub-zero temperatures can get old quickly. Extreme conditions are the norm lately, but still there is beauty in the silent winter night. The gently falling snow covering the ground with a fresh layer. A new chance. The bite of the wind refreshing, cleansing, and full of the promise of spring.
As a way to connect our two worlds, a friend and I sent off lighted lanterns in hope they would meet somewhere in the nighttime sky. Known as Kong Ming Deng, the Chinese first used these lanterns to signal for help from enemies. They soon became used for sending wishes in to the night and later by Monks as way to enlighten the spiritual path.
It was -10 degrees with a brisk wind when the appointed time came. I had little hope that the wax would provide enough heat to fill the lantern. I stood outside looking up in to the sky full of stars as the snow gently kissed my cheeks. I told myself if it didn’t work it was simply weather, nothing more. It was Valentine’s Day. I am a romantic. It had to work.
I felt the lantern begin to tug. Time to let go, but I wanted just one more minute. As if a genie had granted me just one wish, I wanted to get it right. A recent advertisement with ‘a million bucks’ came to mind, but I already knew my wish, I’d made it before. I let go of the lantern and it headed precariously close to a neighbor’s porch. My heart leapt to my throat just as a bitter gust of wind picked up the lantern and carried it into the sky. Higher and higher it flew, headed toward the East. That tiny block of wax filling the globe with light that shone vividly against the coal black sky. I stood and watched until it disappeared in to the night.
Did it enlighten my path and my wish come true? In some ways, yes. I recently read a quote that said if you are unsure about something flip a coin. As soon as it is in the air you will know what you really want. Wishes, hope, dreams are all ways to help us learn what we want and more importantly, what we don’t want. It is snowing now and the temperature is below zero again. As I sit by the fire, warm and safe, I can still appreciate the beauty of winter, but even though I haven't been able to see it for weeks, the grass is always greener… and suddenly, I am looking forward to those rainy Welsh days.