It’s called betrayal, and betrayal is the kind of blackness that eats away at the soul. Any other sorrow can be managed eventually. Some are worse than others, harder to deal with, harder to come to terms with. But betrayal is in its own category because betrayal means that someone you loved and depended upon left you for dead. And you might as well be dead because that’s how it feels. It’s that horrible knowledge that you are no longer “required” by the other and most likely never were.
This was the all-consuming sorrow in the mind of an angry young girl. But it wasn’t her sweetheart that she’d lost. It wasn’t a friend or a family member. It wasn’t anyone she knew. None of her acquaintances had betrayed her. She had betrayed herself, and she didn’t even know it. That’s what depression does to a person. It makes you betray yourself. Slowly but surely, she could feel all happiness and joy ebbing away from her.
|It's always darkest before the dawn.|
So on the darkest day of the year, she made her way down to the water, and there she wept bitterly. The sorrow turned into rage, and the rage turned into wild tears and shouting. And that’s what she did. Knowing herself to be alone in the mist, she shouted and shouted until she was practically hoarse, but the screaming didn’t seem to help. She went from bad to worse.
“My soul is as grey as the mist,” she finally cried softly as she fell to the ground, tears streaming from her eyes.
“Nonsense,” came the reply.
The girl whipped her head around, immediately humiliated that her outburst had been heard, only to find a small squirrel near her who was gathering some seeds out of a pinecone.
“What did you say?” she asked incredulously.
“I said, nonsense.”
“What would you know of it?” she sneered.
“Apparently, a great deal more than you, stupid human.”
Well, that certainly caught her off guard. She decided she might talk with him a bit before the hoped-for rogue wave came in and swallowed her up whole.
“Everything’s gone,” she said quietly.
“Yes. Everything I loved is gone. The warmth, the beauty, the growth. It’s all gone. The woods are dark and cold. The animals hide and some of them die. There’s no food to be found. I feel so empty inside. Everything’s gone.”
“Ahhh, I see,” said the squirrel. “You mean the season of death.”
“Yes, complete death.”
“Surely you’ve been through this before, though?” he asked.
“Yes, but this is different.”
Now, as you know, squirrels are not inclined to be very patient with humans, but because the girl began weeping loudly again, the squirrel decided to help out. It wasn’t out of a great deal of affection for her, but rather his ears hurt quite a bit from the bawling and there were still a number of pinecones in the area he intended to visit.
“How is it different?” he asked rather exasperatedly.
“There used to always be some sort of sign,” she said. “There was always some sort of beauty to find. But now there’s nothing. Everything has died or is dying. There’s no snow to put the world to sleep. And the sun rarely shows his face. When he does, he’s too weak to talk to me. He doesn’t even see me anymore. This time he is dying for good.”
“Impossible,” he said.
“Well, then where is he?? Why won’t he show himself anymore? A tiny ray of sunlight here and there is not enough. A day so short that if I blink I miss it, is just not enough. A pretty light at the bottom of the horizon does no one any good, and he doesn’t care!!”
“That’s ridiculous,” the squirrel said.
“Is it?? With each shorter day, my heart has grown heavier,” she said. “As the light has left the world, my sorrow has increased. My days are dull and dreary, and everyone I talk to seems to have the same dull face on. It’s enough to drive a person insane!”
And now she really cried. She cried and cried so much that the squirrel thought she might truly die of a broken heart. He sighed. He thought of just scampering away, but as he looked at the horizon, he saw a tiny flicker of light through the clouds. Just a small flicker. The girl didn’t see it because she was lying with her face to the ground. The squirrel sighed again. Why were people so stupid?
“Listen, girl. You’ve got it all wrong. The Light never leaves us. Never. Even when we can’t see the Light, even when we can’t find him, the Light never leaves us,” he said. “The Light is as powerful now as ever it was.”
“Then why am I living in darkness? Why is the world so grey and cold? Why can’t I find him?” she asked softly.
“Because you are looking in the wrong places.” This interested the girl, and she stopped crying. Could there be a place that she hadn’t checked?
“I looked everywhere,” she said, “everywhere.”
“Apparently not. Ohhhh….my head,” said the squirrel. “All I wanted was a few seeds. Why are humans so stupid??” The girl just stared at him, and her eyes were so huge and so filled with sadness that even a squirrel would feel pity, and that’s saying something.
The day was drawing quickly to an end. The light flickered again on the horizon, just for a second, and then the greyness increased. Somewhere, the sun had set.
“What’s the right place?” the girl asked.
The squirrel said nothing.
“Foolish girl,” the squirrel spat. “The Light comes and goes as it travels in the outside world, now great, now small, now bright, now dim. The seasons wax and wane and then wax again. At the height of growth, the Light is everywhere and is easy to be found. But then the world gets tired and needs to sleep, and so it asks the Light to not shine so brightly so that it might sleep. And when that happens, the Light obliges his darling Earth and travels to another place where he is desperately needed.”
“Where?” she asked. And she asked so sincerely that the squirrel answered in spite of his impatience.
“Why inside of us, of course,” he blurted out. “Don’t you know that the Light dwells within you?”
“No, I don’t know that at all.”
“It does,” he said. “That’s where the Light goes--inside of all of us. That’s where it comes from, and that’s where it goes to. I told you. It can’t ever die. We carry the Light within us. We consume it when we eat what the Light has grown for us. We absorb it when we bask in his strong rays. We hide him deep within us as we wait for the moment of rebirth--rebirth of him and of ourselves as well.”
“How do you know all of this?” she asked.
“Because I pay attention, unlike some creatures.”
“For someone with so much Light within, you can be a little rude.”
“Am I?” he asked.
“Well, a little. But it was awfully nice of you to talk to me.”
“Yes, it was, wasn’t it?”
“Do you want me to gather some pinecones for you?” she asked.
“Like I need your help!” he snapped.
“No, you don’t need my help. But I might do it all the same.”
She got up and gathered as many pinecones as she could. She also found several acorns and a few dried juniper berries, and she brought them all to the squirrel who sat there looking at her rather confusedly. Then she used a small tap in her pocket and tapped some birch sap for the squirrel, which she brought to him in a curled piece of birch bark. The whole time the squirrel just watched her, shaking his head.
“What?” she asked. “Are you surprised I’m helping you?”
“I told you I don’t need your help.”
“So you did. But I’m helping anyway.”
“So you did. But I’m helping anyway.”
“Why bother? I’m quite capable,” he said, “unlike some people.”
“Indeed you are.”
“Then why bother?”
“Because I can,” she said. “And because I’m grateful. And because . . . there is Light within me.” With that, she sat down and smirked at the squirrel.
“Now you’re getting conceited,” he said, smirking back at her.
“Maybe. But you showed your Light to me, and so I wanted to give some back to you.”
“I did no such thing!!” he yelled, jumping up. The girl just laughed and laughed at him.
“Too late. I saw it,” she grinned.
“I don’t have time for this,” the squirrel said with his nose up in the air. Then he gathered up as many seeds and nuts as he could hold in his mouth and scampered quickly away and up a tree.
“Goodbye . . . and thanks!” she yelled after him.
She wasn’t completely sure, but somewhere up in the trees she thought she heard him say, “Stupid human!” And this made her laugh a great deal. Her laughter was a pleasant sound that rang throughout the cold and grey forest. In spite of the darkness, her laughter rang strong and clear. Yes, she thought, I am rather stupid. Isn’t it marvelous?
It was getting quite dark so the girl jumped up and headed for her house. She didn’t look toward the west for the Sun as she usually did because she knew he wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere to be found in the forest, either. But she knew where he was. The Sun had gone home.