Your professional education in expressive arts  therapy begins here.

Image Alt

Welcoming the Gifts of Darkness: Thoughts on the Longest Night of the Year

Welcoming the Gifts of Darkness: Thoughts on the Longest Night of the Year

Scratch the surface of the darkness, and discover new light.

…Winter has special offerings for your health and happiness…

I am looking into the forest edge, the sky drizzling,cold rain drumming on the skylight. A gray squirrel with her fluffy tail over her back like a cape, sits up on her ample haunches and is nibbling at the sunflower seeds fallen from the birdfeeder set out for the brilliant red Cardinal and his buffy mate. They are storing up for the cold and short days ahead. Conserving. Preparing. They are busy with purpose. This is great time for us to contemplate in a space of ease, musings of our work and play over the next year. Let the body lead and follow.


With the change of seasons, we all notice, it is darker, sooner. I’ve heard people say it is unsettling and slightly spooky but I encourage you to let darkness surround you in its close embrace. Allow that Winter has special offerings for your health and happiness. The dark invites us to close our eyes; there is nothing to see. That brings us inward, to the comfort of the cave and cozy blankets and other warm weavings. 
Now is the time of gifting, of giving and forgiving. Time to nurture our relationships and ensure their survival to the next equinox. So many losses occur in the cold time, it is wise to acknowledge our connections to each other with fullness and friendship, with harmony and rapport. This is the time to support causes whose values resonate with your own; extend your reach across time and space.
Read the book of Nature and use the celestial lessons of our solar system to attune and align our own lives to that reality. We are the earth come conscious of its own fallow time, and need for regeneration.
Now the queen of the garden, the rose, get roughly pruned back, cut, de-leafed, and covered with mulch. She looks like a heap of nothing. But this attention to removing what is no longer needed assures full and fragrant flowers later. Let us prune away what is unnecessary, costly, clearing the impediments to our new growth. 
We cannot control the weather, nor much else! But we can conserve, prepare, contemplate, and plan. Then time and life come in and do what they always do: rearrange, delay, accelerate, surprise.
We can let the winter hold us; show us the light of stars, which is the light of the ancient past. In darkness imagination can thrive. We gather, like our ancestors, round the comforting warmth of  a fire, or candle, a crock-pot or coffee pot and tell our stories for the year. 
In this dark of the year, I encourage you make some marks in your journal. Not to evaluate your accomplishments, but to narrate the people and passages, the gifts and challenges of this journey round the sun. Here’s an exercise I like.
Sgraffito: Light through the Darkness
You’ll need: Crayons or craypas oil pastel, Acrylic paint, dish soap, your journal. 
1. Using wax based media like crapas or crayons, the brightest colors in your art bag, make solid color patterns randomly over the page. Make the page solid. Then cover with a layer or two of black acrylic paint to which you have added a 1/2 teaspoon of dish soap. Again, make this as solid as you can do. Then, with a scratching tool (like a toothpick or chopstick) scratch out your design. Maybe the earth at solstice? Or a night sky? (See Wes’ example above)
2. Write: the gifts or darkness and dreaming. What do you wish to rest from? What dreams to do you wish to nurture? May I suggest non-career themes: people or processes you wish to develop or enhance?
From the Expressive Arts Institute, we wish you the greetings of the season, the gift of darkness that rests us in our restless pace, and yet amplifies our attendance to the light of each other, and our own creative spirit. I hope the coming year finds you in our space, seeing the latest art exhibit, taking workshops or classes and supporting your own creative nature. Until then, I wish you the peace of the season,
Judith Greer Essex PhD is the founding Director of the Expressive Arts Institute