If I were here to give you a tip (tip being the choice over recipe, which is the other thing that makes me useful here), it would be this:
Now is the time to light candles. Every day.
This past week where I am, we fell back in time, and the world got dark. I love this part of the year. I love the darkness, and the chill, and I like the feeling of change. And for those of us with children in the house, this is the good change, where the kids start to go to bed a little earlier, and it’s easier to drag them out of bed before school because it actually looks like morning instead of the middle of the night. Still, there’s been a tension that came in that might be a given during any change. Or maybe that’s just being a kid, or human, and the narrow hit of the sun as it speeds down behind the mountain brings that tension into clearer focus.
4:30, what I used to call mid-afternoon, is now night. We light the candles then. They’re not the sweet honey smelling beeswax ones I splurge on when things feel flush, but just the endless cube of white tea lights from the last long ago trip to Ikea. How they can sell that many candles for that little bit of money, I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know until I can afford only beeswax candles forever.
But I light the candles–lots of them. Some on the beat-up side table in front of the window, others in a line on the kitchen table. I brush away the crumbs still on the table from breakfast, and I light enough candles so that I have to use three or four matches, each time walking over to the sink to drop the charred match in so I can begin again with a new one. And once they’re lit, it’s warm and light inside in a way that only the candles can create. The girls strip off sweaters, make art on the kitchen table, do handstands in the den, fight over who gets to check their email. I start frying onions in butter and I turn on the radio. The cat comes in, rushes to his bowl as if he didn’t just eat a mouse (I watched him, and he knows that), takes a token bite, and curls up on the sheepskin next to the couch. It seems like part of our work–to light the candles, keep them going, and hold the light within our own four walls until the sun comes back.
Tonight, Joey and I ran down to the fire station to vote, and it was more crowded there than I can ever remember. In each cubicle, someone squinted at the two-page ballot, trying to figure out the meaning of their “yes” or “no.”
Election day falls in this moment, just after Halloween, a few breaths before Thanksgiving–all during this darkest time of the year. It seems right that we vote at this time–this candle time, when all the light we have is our very own responsibility. Somehow, with all the mess, we still vote. It’s like lighting the candles, keeping the light safe within our own four walls.