Acknowledging the Darkness Before Dawn

Winter is a good time to reflect on the nature of darkness yielding to light, but that philosophical – and, at times, spiritual – metaphor is sometimes lost on us in our daily lives. In Maine, winter is indeed the time of a darkness that comes early and stays late, and it is the time of a harrowing cold that grabs the bones and rattles the muscles into an uncomfortable and seemingly unceasing ache. Time will tell if the difficult winters and subsequent beauty of the springtime is an appropriate metaphor for the many other challenges of the area and how they may gradually lessen, but, for now, despair is a real potential for many individuals.

Maine ranks 10th in the nation for its suicide rate, a reality that tragically hit home in the past week as a young man from the immediate area claimed his own life. As a nation, the suicide rate is steadily climbing, up from 12 per 100,000 people in 2012 to 13.7 in 2017. Many of the issues facing our communities are clearly paralleled across the country.

What can we do to prevent this distressing trend? As individuals, we may find solace in such evident metaphors as the winter turning to spring and, thus, the coming of the light, or we may find that comfort in the wisdom of past sages. “The darkest hour comes before the dawn,” writes theologian Thomas Fuller, reminding us that it is the very hopelessness of a situation that signals its nearness to being resolved – if we can only persevere.

Lura Jackson