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Opinion | In Dark Times, the Solstice Reminds Us There Will Be Light

But I turned 60 this year, and for the first time in my life, I have started to look for the gifts of darkness. Waiting impatiently for another time to come is a young person’s game. Mortal creatures can ill afford to live for the future. Instead of looking restlessly for the light, sometimes it helps to settle into the darkness. Could it be that a metaphorical darkness offers its own pinpricks of light? Could it be that this darkness can point us, if we are vigilant and if we are patient, toward a better way?

I think of Jimmy Finch, the Tennessee man who drove his smoker to Mayfield, Ky., after the tornadoes hit this month. From the back of his pickup truck, Mr. Finch fed folks hot meals on paper plates, free. “I’m just here because not everybody has money,” he told Kim Bellware of The Washington Post. “But people want food; people need food.”

I think of how the Southeast, this cussed, change-resistant place I’ve called home for all my life, is already equipped to shift its entire energy output to renewables by 2035, according to a new report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “It is absolutely possible to get to 100 percent clean electricity, and we even have options to how we get there,” Maggie Shober, a researcher at SACE, told Caroline Eggers of WPLN.

I take comfort from the prominent conservatives, too many to name, who repudiate what is happening in the Republican Party. I believe with all my heart that still others are poised to rise in the year to come, willing to sacrifice their careers for the sake of preserving American democracy.

On the night of the last new moon, my husband and I borrowed our dear friends’ cabin perched at the very edge of Lost Cove, one of the darkest places in Tennessee. We left town later than we’d hoped, and it was full dark, darker than any darkness at home, by the time we reached the top of the Cumberland Plateau and rattled down the gravel drive through the bare trees of a cold forest. After we unloaded the car and walked the dog, I opened a book in the cozy cabin. My husband headed out to the bluff.

Within seconds, he was back inside, jubilant, to report that the sky was full of stars. “Come look at the Pleiades!” he said. “I haven’t seen the Pleiades in years!”

That night, fog filled up the cove. Come morning, a cloud would engulf the cabin, and rain would fall on the metal roof. But for a few hours, the night sky was full of light. So much light, even in the darkest cove of a dark winter forest. And soon there will be more light.

Margaret Renkl, a contributing Opinion writer, is the author of the books “Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South” and “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.”

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