Yes, I’m counting. Since the solstice a week ago, two seconds of light has been added each day. So the long darkness is by a tiny amount diminished, and this matters to me. Since I’m usually up by 6 am, I have a particular reaction to the early hours of darkness: I hate and resent them.
But—why? As we all know, darkness is essential. It nourishes. It allows seeds to germinate. We wouldn’t be able to survive without it. Yet centuries of tradition link darkness to blackness, to sin, to the feared and despised, and my own dislike reminds me daily of the enormous cost paid by those of us with dark skins.
And so it seems especially propitious that this is the time my neighbors have discovered in their yard a sacred tree. Native elders tell us that intentionally distorted limbs on ancient piñons were modified by their ancestors to point to the heavens or to point westward to trails leading to ancient sites such as Chaco Canyon.
After I read this news story, I am looking in a new way at two ancient piñons in my own yard, one with a sky-pointing limb, one with contorted ground-level limbs pointing westward. I’d assumed that some Anglo gardener years ago bent and twisted these limbs in a bow to Japanese methods but now I’m reminded of the fact that I’m living on land stolen from the Puebloans whose villages surround Santa Fe; one of them was directly under this town. They left their mark on these trees as they have left their mark on our consciousness.
This is true everywhere in this country, but in the east and south where the tribes were destroyed or driven out, many of us relative newcomers are not aware of the history that confronts us here in the Southwest every day.
Now I have another reason to be grateful for the increasing light. It shows me my sacred trees.