Be A Bonfire
by Deb Graham
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, as do about 10% of western Washington’s residents. It’s an inconvenient disorder to contend with during the gloomy, dank, dark, dismal, sunless, often rainy, never-ending winters that plague this area. Symptoms include a mad desire for light in any form, carbo-craving, fatigue and lethargy, and a little internal voice that chants, “HiberNATE! HiberNATE!” when attempting to do anything vaguely ambitious.
Days are entirely too short here; often, streetlights shine before school buses pass the house. The only treatment I’ve found that sometimes helps, besides running up the electric bill and surrounding myself with special lights, is to plan a trip. Planning a sunny journey mid-winter gives me something to look forward to, as well as boosting my spirits enough to make through until springtime. Conveniently, my mother lives in Florida. I make a point to visit her in the darkest part of the year, To Be Sure She’s Alright. Mind you, she’s just fine the rest of the year, but in the middle of winter, I’d better go see for myself, and take a week or more doing it. I admit it’s a little transparent, as ruses go, but it beats jumping off a high building.
I think about light a lot this time of year. I find myself drawn to Christmas lights and candles and lightbulbs and flashlights and lamps and stars, when they’re visible, which isn’t often around here. Did I mention it rains? And I think about the Savior, the Light of the World, the reason for the pretty little Christmas lights all around. An oft-repeated admonition of Jesus is found in Matthew, and a few other places as well throughout the scriptures.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5: 14-16
The Lord is big on light, it seems, and expects us to shine.
Who am I to shine? This time of year, especially, I feel more like a weak, wet match than a bonfire. But let’s look at that match. Once lit, however fleeting or weak, it has the power to light a long-burning candle, a bonfire, a forest fire. When I taught my Girl Scout troop to light cooking fires, they did so under a sprinkler. It’s easy enough to light dry firewood, but to light rain-soaked wet wood, the kind we find north of Seattle ten months of any year, well, that’s a skill! They all succeeded in not only striking a spark, but boiling water and a single spaghetti strand soft enough to tie a square knot in.
As I sit in darkness, being a little candle, I feel mighty inadequate. And a thought comes to me: not one about a light big enough to cast a dim glow across a room, but a full-on summer-beach-sized bonfire. That’s the kind of fire to be; a roaring fire that gives so much light, tourists can smile from three miles down the beach, wishing they were included. That’s the kind of light I want to be, the kind of old that steered sailors from a rocky jetty, bigger than a birthday candle. I can do this through my writing as well as human interaction.
So is Letting My Light So Shine Before Men That They May See (My) Good Works a daunting task? Likely, but I can take small steps. I’m all about small good works, anything that pushes back the darkness a little more. My goal: Be a bonfire. Any spark has potential, right?