I live with someone who loves to augment the air around the place. Her friends know this about her, and so we are on the receiving end of aromatic gifts, candles and incense from the wide world.

The math of incense is like the math of life, I suppose: the rumour scent of what could be, and then some kind of ignition, and the whorls of beauty waft, disperse, go invisible and for all of that linger a good while in the fabric of things.

But the aftermath of incense is there too: a little dust pile of leavings, like the shucked-off skin of a snake you find in the woodpile when you start to dig into it come the cold, as clear and as manifest a sign of life lived as there’s ever been. You’d do well not to disturb it. It’s prone to air moving in the same way its scented ancestor is, yes, but it is irreducibly dust, the kind the bible intones over. It’s a kind of doneness, an overness.

Year’s End has some of that dusty, redolent melancholy about it. There are spent calendars on the wall, spent appointment books in the drawer, proof that you’ve been at it. For us northerners there’s the rooting about in the closet for the right clothes, getting the truck sprayed beneath to ward off the inevitable salt-enabled rust for another run through the slush.

A year, by many measures, isn’t a long time. It was mercilessly short for those who might have found this year to be their last one among us. So also for those who loved them. Sixty five million of us, give or take, had that kind of a year, left their dust by the roadside where the bylaws permitted.

The waning of the light is hard on some of us. Moods metastasize. Resilience is gone till spring. The darkness gathers in heaps.

On the farm we are spent by 7 pm. 7 pm has us looking for the door, glad of the quiet that still pertains out here. It is our midnight. We joke about it: good practice for getting old. It bewilders the visitors, who liken it to jet lag, or a kind of fresh air hangover.

The darkness is older than we are. It belongs here in a way we never will. It isn’t rest, or respite. It’s time’s casings. It’s good to wonder without fatalism as things go seasonably dim: what might have seen it’s last? It helps I think, this kind of talley. You don’t want to be ambushed by things that are already true.

Blessings from the barricades, folks. Many, many thanks for opening these newsletters, reading them, letting me know that you do. Would that the sombre and shortened days grant solace.


Stephen Jenkinson
Founder of Orphan Wisdom