“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” – Theodore Roethke
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
In some ways these two quotes seem to be at odds with one another. Roethke expresses what the ancient Celts and many other ancient peoples knew to be true, that darkness and light are complementary parts of a single whole. King’s words seem to equate darkness with hate and violence. But looking more deeply into King’s statement one can see that he was addressing a world out of balance; a world of ever increasing violence and hate; a world in which we find ourselves once again.
It was this night devoid of stars which I felt on the day after the U.S. presidential election in November, 2016. I reeled around all day trying to get some work done on my computer but was lacking focus or the ability to think much. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
Finally I took refuge in my studio with paint brush and canvas. I had a canvas already prepared with a glaze of alizarin crimson on which I intended to paint something related to bees. At first I could do nothing but apply dark, dark colors with no form. I thought that I’d have to let the “bee” concept go and just delve into the darkness I was feeling about the state of America and the consciousness of her citizens. But oddly enough as I worked the feeling lifted a little and I started to feel a glimmer of light. By the end of that day the bees had come back into the painting, bringing with them a bit of light.
Since that day in my studio, the world has moved on. Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States, bringing with him a new and deepening darkness of hate. And yet the world seeks balance and the resistance is strong. Many, many of us remember that in the deepest, darkest of winter nights, the seeds lay dormant, their light within, waiting for rebirth in the spring.
When I’m feeling more positive, I think that all which is happening now – Trump elected to be President of the United States, the rise of autocrats and nationalist regimes world wide, the increasing acceptance of bigotry and misogyny, and the violent march of fundamentalism in all patriarchal religions – is part of a great unfolding. Albeit painful, this unfolding is exposing to the light of day the horrors created by a worldview which places humans, especially male, white humans, above all of creation; a worldview in which one is concerned only with oneself and one’s tribe/family. Ours is a world out of balance which the previous decades of ever increasing prosperity through credit hid from view. But the extremes the world is going to now allow us to see clearly where this journey of domination over the Earth and over one another has brought us. Now we must shine our own light brightly on that darkness. Only light can conquer an out of balance darkness.
I have continued to work on the painting I started the day after the election, through the dark of winter, up to the dawning spring. It’s finished now (though I must admit that if a painting is left in my care I could go back into it at any time). That being said, it is finished for now and it definitely has more light than darkness. Though the road might be long – very long – which brings us back to that balance between darkness and light, I have faith that we will get there.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. She is now in the editing stage of her deck of Celtic Goddess Cards, which should be released this summer. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.