The Legacy Of February Light
Wherever I travel, I notice that light is unique; I only thought of the light as peculiar to Tunis or San Francisco, two cities where I’ve lived where the sky and the light are very different from my native Minneapolis.
I never thought of light also changing according to the time of year – not just shorter or longer days, but that the quality of light is also different until I read Elizabeth Strout’s new sequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteredge – Olive, Again
“What she would have written about was the light in February. How it changed the way the world looked… for Cindy the light of the month had always been like a secret, and it remained a secret even now. Because in February the days were really getting longer and you could see it, if you really looked. You could see how at the end of each day the world seemed cracked open and the extra light made its way across the stark trees, and promised. It promised, that light, and what a thing that was. As Cindy lay on her bed she could see this even now, the gold of the last light opening the world.”
“Here is the thing that Cindy, for the rest of her life, would never forget: Olive Kitteridge said, my God, but I have always loved the light in February.” Olive shook her head slowly. “My God,” she repeated, with awe in her voice. “Just look at that February light.”
Elizabeth Strout is not the only author to note the light of this time of year; here’s Parker Palmer’s profound awe in Let Your Life Speak:
“Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”
Listen to the music of light that opens Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens’ bestselling novel: “Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea… Then within the marsh, here and there, true swamp crawls into low-lying bogs, hidden in clammy forests. Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in its muddy throat.”
Perhaps the earliest legacy we share with all life is light: The Bible begins: “In the beginning God created…and darkness was upon the face of the deep… And God said, “Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good…”
What do the Bible, Owens, Palmer, and Strout have to do with legacy? Everything! Light is our legacy every day from sunrise to sunset, and like so much – in all of nature – we are unaware, blind, and fail to observe and experience the sublime, the gift of awe that is our legacy every day.
What better legacy can we offer others than to invite them to experience February light, the light that is so special, and also the harbinger of spring.
- Reflect on your personal relationship with light – how it has nourished you, enhanced your life.
- Write one paragraph about a time when light lifted you, or filled you with awe – and if in February, all the better!
- Choose a recipient for your legacy letter about light.
- Use our four paragraph template (context, story, learning – wisdom extracted from the story, and a blessing) to keep the gift of your letter simple.
May your memories of light remind you to be present to the February light and to light all year long.
– Rachael Freed
Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters, Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs & Blessings to Future Generations and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient Rachael Freed firstname.lastname@example.org and www.life-legacies.com