There’s a certain time of evening at this certain time of the year that has an inexplicable power over me. It’s that moment when dusk is falling, when it’s too dark to see clearly enough to trust your sight, but still light enough that the streetlights in our neighborhood have yet to flip on and illuminate the sidewalks of our neighborhood with their soft glow.
I used to associate that time of evening and year with the loneliness of being a single mom—of seeing lights turn on in homes as people returned at the end of their day, joining their families to gather around tables in warmth. (Most homes have a way of looking cozy and happy in the evening, when you’re on the outside in the dusk, looking in.)
I wasn’t really alone during that time in my life—I had my daughters, at least most of the time. And most of the time I didn’t feel lonely, even when I was actually alone. But at dusk, in December, there was a weight of melancholy that pressed on my chest, spreading through me in a thick, slow ache.
* * * * *
Now, a decade later, in the midst of a life that has its share of struggles but is far from lonely and dark, the same feeling still washes over me at that certain time of day in this certain season of the year. Ten years ago it didn’t surprise me, but now it does, because it doesn’t make sense.
I wonder if this feeling is triggered by memories that are bound up with the shortening of days as we creep toward the Solstice. I wonder if it’s tied to my struggles with depression—with a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder that certainly must play a part in the dip of my moods. I also wonder if this feeling is simply part of what it means to be human—that for centuries people have been lighting candles and moving closer to the fire at this time of year, huddling in to wait out the darkness.
As I was writing this post, the word “gloaming” surprised me, rising from my gut into my mind. I realize my brain has never known exactly what “gloaming” means, but at the same time my gut always has. I Google it, and sure enough—gloaming simply means twilight, dusk. I look up the words to that old song I vaguely know, but who knows from where or why. The song is the only reason I know the word “gloaming” even exists, and although I don’t know the words, the tune floats through my mind, sorrowful yet comforting, because it seems to get how I feel.
In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
And the quiet shadows, falling,
Softly come and softly go
When the trees are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe
Will you think of me and love me,
As you did once, long ago.
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To be in the gloaming is to be in a neither-here-nor-there place, in a now-and-not-yet time. Which is also very much an Advent place and time. As I wrote last week, Advent is the time when we feel the darkness but anticipate the light. It’s the time when we just might fully get why we need the light, why it’s worth longing for, and why there’s a hope candle in our Advent wreath.
And while it isn’t a joyful place to be, there’s also something about the dusk, the melancholy, that feels safe and comfortable—maybe because it draws us together and compels us to strike matches for lighting wicks and wood. So let’s be content to just sit here awhile as we wait for what’s next.