The longest night of the year is tomorrow, December 21. The solstice marks the beginning of the end of the long, deep dark that has had us in its embrace for quite a while now.

For many (and this writer too), the shortening days of October and November can be distressing and depressing, some years more so than others. When the daylight saving time change rolls around and we turn our clocks back it seems like it is instantly dark in the afternoon after it was already starting to get dark earlier.

This year, however, the dark has felt like a welcome respite, an invitation to burrow in and welcome the quiet it brings.

This year, it has been easier to wait with patience for dawn to streak the sky pink in the morning and it has been less daunting to grocery shop in the dark and head home in the dark after work. It didn’t feel like an imposition or something to be dreaded.

Maybe it was the abundance of early-season snow that mitigated the impact of the short days and long nights. The snow certainly made stick season brighter and much more fun. It was much less daunting to walk the dogs in the pale morning light that was reflected off the snow.

Maybe it’s the Hanukkah and Christmas lights and the lights from our neighbors’ holiday lights that has helped. Or maybe it’s just the knowledge that with the solstice and the coming of the Christmas, Kwanza and the new year, we’re headed back into the light.

The days don’t get longer immediately after the solstice. There’s a bit of a flat period before we really notice a difference. So, while we wait, embrace the darkness and the quiet. Embrace the chance to reflect on the year that was and the year that is coming. Reflect on successes and failures, loss and love. Reflect on hope.

Sit quietly with the dark. It’s a comforting and known friend whose opposite is the light. In the fullness of time, the darkness gives way to the light and the glorious long days of summer.

Happy holidays to all. Hold tight to friends and family.