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June BlueSpruce, M.P.H.

Shamanic Practitioner and Life Coach

How the Light Gets In

Now, at Winter Solstice, we walk into the darkness. A deeper darkness than we have ever known, it seems. It’s important to keep our eyes open, to know this darkness. What it looks like, how it feels, sounds, smells, tastes. How to survive and move in it. Where to look for the first rays of light returning.

Each day and year, we experience natural darkness. The sun sets, and the moon and stars rise. The earth tilts away from the sun, the days get shorter and the nights longer, the temperature falls. We know the light will come again – in the morning, or as the days get longer, minute by minute, after Winter Solstice. Darkness is part of the cycle. At night it allows us to sleep, dream, restore our health and energy. In the short days and long nights of winter it gives us time to stop, reflect. To gather around a fire with loved ones and share gifts and stories. To connect with kin and community. We can feel the beauty, strength, and blessing of this darkness.

When we lose touch with the cycles of nature, we enter a different kind of darkness, one cast by humans’ shadow. In this darkness, one in which crimes of violence, bigotry, hatred, division and greed seem to have more power than acts of love, justice, connection, peace and generosity, it seems the light will never return, or not for a very long time. Many of us desperately fear that we are in such a place now.

On December 19, in meetings of the Electoral College in state capitols across the country, Donald Trump and Mike Pence were elected to be the President and Vice President of the United States. Both of these men have shown themselves to be willing to sacrifice the good of the many, particularly those who have been historically oppressed and disempowered, for the benefit of the few. Both have engaged in public acts of dishonesty, bigotry, misogyny and cruelty. After an electoral process which featured extensive suppression of the votes of people of color and interference by the Russian government, the Republican victory ensured that there is no branch in our federal government to act as a brake on their power. To the contrary, Congress and, soon, the Supreme Court seem primed to amplify that power.

All over the country, loud and colorful demonstrators gathered on state capitol steps to protest Trump’s election and support electors in “going rogue:” voting for a consensus Republican candidate to deprive Trump of an Electoral College majority. Few electors did so, including four Democrats from Washington State. I joined the crowd in Olympia, Washington’s capitol. The chants and speeches were familiar and rhetorical: “Dump Trump! This is what democracy looks like.” It felt good to exercise our right to object publicly and peacefully to such an awful outcome. Many of us then proceeded inside to observe the Electoral College meeting.

Surprisingly, given the undemocratic origin, purpose and function of the Electoral College – if we elected the President by direct popular vote, both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have been President – this meeting gave me another glimpse of “what democracy looks like.”

The session opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Native flute music as a traditional blessing. The group, probably the most diverse in the country, was chaired by a Native woman, a member of the Lummi tribe. After the twelve electors, all Democrats, voted, while the vote count was being confirmed, the chair gave each participant a chance to speak briefly. A Muslim woman and two Native men talked about how they had come to be there, how grateful they were to be part of this process and what impact they hoped it would have. Another person said they were the first out transgender person to serve as an elector in the United States. The president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP described being an elector in 2008, when there were 12 people in the gallery, not several hundred like today, and expressed hope for more participation in our democratic process. A white woman with a shaved head said that she had terminal cancer, would not likely live to see another presidential election, and proudly cast her vote for the first woman nominated by a major political party for President. Several electors vowed to work for the abolition of the Electoral College and hoped this would be its last meeting.

The memories I carry from these events are not primarily of the rally speakers’ exhortations to the crowd or the giant Trump head that one protester wore. I will instead hear the flute music, the blessing from Spirit that opened the gathering. I’ll picture the faces, voices and words of our multiracial, multigendered electors, a microcosm of our country. I will draw strength from what each of them overcame to be present there today, and from their hope, their vision for the future, their trust in the power of democracy and in us as a people.

The other sound and image that comes to me is of a huge “mega-murder” of crows gathering in Seward Park at dusk, communicating in continuous, cacophonous cawing, preparing for their night roost. They get together in enormous numbers to ward off predators, and they don’t shut up. What a great example they set for us for the next four years. They know how to live closely among their most dangerous predators – humans – and how to survive, adapt and thrive under the most adverse conditions. They know how to get through the night and the winter. We can too.

In honor of Leonard Cohen, who died November 7, the day before our election, here are the lyrics to his song, ”Anthem,” as timely today as when it was released 24 years ago.

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

Copyright ©1992 Leonard Cohen

 

 

4 Responses to “How the Light Gets In”

  1. Carol Proud

    Thanks June for your insight and encouragement (and well written reporting!). As the old spiritual rang, “Believe I’ll run on…see what the end’s going to be.”

  2. June BlueSpruce

    Thanks, Carol! Glad it spoke to you. And thanks for the reminder of that amazing song. I remember Sweet Honey in the Rock’s version.

  3. Christie Denhart

    Thanks, June. I so appreciate the quarterly writings that I have read. This one is lovely….and encouraging. love to you and all you do/offer – and of course love to Martha.

  4. June BlueSpruce

    Thank you, and you too – Solstice blessings.

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