In the gloaming

by Kristin on December 10, 2013

in Love, family & community

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.

* * * * * *

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.

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  • sarah louise

    I am in the gloaming. Thank you for this. This is the first year I have felt Seasonal Affect D, and I think it is due to the fact that I work in an office with no windows.

    • kt_writes

      I’m glad there can be some comfort in knowing we are not in the gloaming alone. (Is this the first winter you’ve worked in a windowless office?) Peace to you.

  • Cathy

    Wow, that was beautiful. I love sometimes the stillness that comes from an early darkening evening. Gloaming is my new word.

    • kt_writes

      I sometimes think it’s that stillness that gives us that uneasy feeling, even though it’s exactly what we need. We’re just not used to it, so we don’t know how to give in to it (although it sounds like you’ve learned to!). Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    This is so lovely, and I hear you. I love the dusk but it also makes me ache – especially when it comes so early. I’m happy to sit here with you.

    • kt_writes

      Yes, the word “bittersweet” seems to fit dusk perfectly, doesn’t it? Thank you for sitting with me.

  • Leigh Kramer

    No words, Kristin. I believe I’ll be referring back to this piece for some time to come. Thank you for this.

    • kt_writes

      I’m glad this resonates with you Leigh, and I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this strange-feeling space.

  • pastordt

    What a lovely reflection! And I get it, even though I live in CA and we never get a true winter on the central coast. We still get the lengthening shadows and the shorter days and that alone creates its own kind of melancholy. Thanks for this, Kristin.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for *getting it*—even if you do live in CA! :) Thanks for reading and commenting, too. Peace to you.

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  • Michelle Acker Perez

    Kristin, this is just beautiful, so raw and real. I am catching up on blog posts : ) It’s funny living so close to the equator I sometimes miss the shortened days in winter and likewise, the long summer nights. There is something about the seasons and darkness and light that is so human, like you say. I’m in a different season now…Having a new little one at home can makes the dark, still hours so sweet…or so lonely. Thank you for writing. Please keep sharing your heart.

    • kt_writes

      Thanks Michelle for sharing your perspective! It’s so interesting to think about the completely different rhythm of seasons/life near the equator. Blessings to you and your life there.