Eldering: The Moonlight Years

By Nancy Hemesath

During this time of year when darkness takes a larger proportion of our days, I find myself wanting to skip the winter months and get right into spring. It is a good thing I do not have the power and means to make this happen! Winter has its own importance to give life. Without it my life and all of nature would be diminished. This is true both literally and figuratively.

Light and darkness are complementary, the yin and yang of life. Light would have no meaning without darkness and vice-versa. The balance creates wholeness. Nature demonstrates this as the trees through their roots bulk up on the soil’s nutrients and water during the winter months so they will have enough energy to grow buds and leaves in the spring. Hibernation of some animals is another example of nature’s way of enabling survival and wholeness. Bears reduce body temperature, heart rate, breathing and consciousness in order to survive the harsh winter conditions and lack of food. It is their annual rest period.

We humans mimic the pattern of hibernation by spending more time indoors with furnaces and fireplaces blazing. Physical activity is reduced, especially in the Third Chapter, and we find more sedentary ways to spend our time. The pace is less hectic and we enjoy the quiet and the solitude.

To counter my initial emotional response to winter, I reflect on the aspects I really enjoy. At this time of year, I pull out my jigsaw puzzle board and enjoy many challenging hours of assembling 1,000 piece pictures at a time. Another highlight of the winter months for me is watching basketball. I not longer attend the games in person but I schedule the times to watch them on television. It is fun to have a favorite team to follow! Maybe best of all is cuddling up with a good book when one is not tempted to go outside.

While we tend to identify winter with darkness, light is also an essential aspect of the season. Moonlight is to winter what sunlight is summer. Subconsciously or consciously, the sun promotes wakefulness, action, energy, and productivity. Moonlight, on the other hand, softens the gaze and promotes rest, gentleness, deep listening and peace. Some archetypes associate the sunlight with the masculine and the moonlight with the feminine. Of course, it is stereotypical to assume only men carry the masculine traits and women the feminine since both men and women carry both to varying degrees. There is a need for both in every whole person. The masculine or sunlight doers would be little more than workaholics without reflection. The feminine of moonlight people would reflect and rest but get little accomplished. I don’t know any person who is exclusively one or the other. As in all of nature, life only works if we have a balance of both.

Another archetype of the life cycle is the four seasons. Spring represents youth and summer is full, generative adulthood. Autumn is the time of harvest of the completed season and the slowing down of activity. Winter is the time of facing mortality as we do in our elder years.

Seeing the elder years as the moonlight years illustrates some of the importance of this time. It is not a time without light but a time to gaze upon our lives with gentleness. It is time to let go of the glare of self-reproach, regrets and judgements. Flaws disappear in the softened light of the moon. We are able to see what is significant and release the rest

It is in the moonlight that we spend time reflecting on our memories. We see what has contributed to our lives to make us who are have become. We cherish the gifts of relationships, shared experiences, family time, and enjoyable days. When regrets and old hurts emerge, we look at them without harshness but with “the eyes of kindness” for ourselves and others.

The moonlight years lend themselves to reflection on the most important life questions, such as…

Who are the people who have blessed my life? Have I told them? What highlight events have enriched my journey?
Where do I find beauty and goodness?
Have I forgiven all the old hurts and thus healed relationships? Have I forgiven myself for my shortcomings?

Who has loved me and whom have I loved?

Reviewing our lives with soft twilight or reverent candlelight prepares us to complete our lives with grace, whatever losses and sufferings we may face. The moonlight can shine through the windows of our inner lives, bringing gentle, soothing light into dark rooms.

Nancy Hemesath is retired from non-profit leadership, spending her Third Chapter as a life coach. Encore Coaching specializes in supporting people in finding meaning, purpose and joy in post-retirement years. She offers personal coaching, presentations, workshops, book studies and Wisdom Circles. She can be reached
at nanhemesath@gmail.com.


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