As the seasons move toward winter, and the days become shorter and darker, I find that my spirits are darker, too. The night comes down quickly, the light fades into orange and gold and the woods loom over the yard.
By day, I am still light and warmth. I smile and laugh with my students. I chat with my colleagues, enjoy my coffee, embrace the life force around me.
But at the end of the day, as I walk to my car and drive away from school, my own light seems to dim with the sun. My heart begins to feel cooler as I leave my bright classroom behind me. It shrinks within my breast as the car moves steadily westward, toward the colder, emptier lands where I live. I am steady and strong on the highway, listening to my favorite radio host as he talks about the issues of the day. My mind is focused outward, toward the world at large, and I hold myself in place as my hands grip the wheel.
But after a time, the highway is left behind. I steer my car down the ramp, around the circle, under the bridge. I pass the gas station, the school, the trees still torn from the ice storm of two winters past. My thoughts begin to slow, and drift back. My cool, shrunken heart begins to sink.
As I leave the lights of town behind me, and move down the narrow curving roads of my little town, the darkness creeps closer. The trees turn black and lean toward me with grasping bony fingers. My mind drifts.
And I begin to fear.
Maybe the house has caught fire while I was away. Maybe I will turn into my driveway and find only smoking rubble.
Maybe someone broke in, and killed my dogs, and stole my meager treasures, and smashed my pictures and took away my safety.
My heart drops more and more. I turn onto my street. I grip the wheel ever more tightly.
And then I hear them.
The voices of my children, calling me, greeting me, telling me all about their day. I hear them as they rise and fall and wind around each others’ words. My children, grown and gone, no longer here to tell me that they love me. My eyes fill with tears as I pull into the driveway and open the garage door to enter my cold and empty house.
I am trying not to feel this. I am trying not to be sad.
But on the long drive home the darkness falls, the trees bend in, my heart shrinks and sorrow fills me up.