Who Turned Out the Lights?

“We need more light around here” surely has deeper meaning these days. A dim room benefits from a lamp turned on. During the months when it gets dark before 6:00 PM we hit the light switch and Voila! —  Lights. During the Christmas holidays, there are lights in every room —  from our tree, lights outside on the cactus, lights along the back fence, lights wound ‘round the patio chair, chili lights on our tall artificial plant. When my husband turns out his bedside light at night and I’m still on my umpteenth game of laptop Mahjong, I put on my nightwalker hat for “just a few minutes to finish up here.”

Lighten Up

“Lighten up” are two small words which have carried a big message for me during the past 9 ½ months. I’m getting in the habit of turning on inner lights as well as electrical lights. The light of optimism, the light of laughing instead of pouting, a light of compassion, and bursts of lights of cheerfulness. 


So light a candle, be the light, watch, read, write humorous words to lighten the mood when tension starts to ruffle your feathers. Instead of reaching for a matching cloak of irritation because someone else “seems” to be irritated, I smile, or hum, or play a CD. 

Some days during this pandemic just about anything can be a trigger — of irritation, boredom, wanting to shut down — anything can tempt me to dim or darker thoughts. But the light of a smile or a few comforting words, to someone else or to myself, “It’s ok, I understand, no biggie” can turn the light on again and bring back the warmth.


A very useful word found its way to me recently. Qarrtsiluni. It’s an Inuit word that describes waiting together in the darkness … waiting for the light. It got me thinking how this pandemic both darkened our world as we waited for information, reassurance, safety. In a weird way, the pandemic also lit our little world that we inhabit-our home, family, neighborhood.

My husband and I hunkered down in March – stayed inside not knowing, then knowing that this virus was deadly and some of us were more vulnerable than others. First responders were like the first lights to go on-bringing help, bringing hope. Then science, research, corporations, environmentalists built on that hope. People who speak out, write, sing about hope are brave lights that lighten my heart. They inspire me to create, find, believe in that light at the end of this viral tunnel. 

Zoom has been a tool of light for me-connecting with other people while waiting for the light. I do lighten up with my writing colleagues, spiritual teammates, family and friends, New Jersey book club, entertainment with Odyssey storytellers and Unscrewed improv, online and Youtube yoga, mindfulness, and virtual traveling to the Christmas markets of Europe. I know we will experience all this in person again in the future.

Millions of people have been experiencing Qarrtsiluni – not physically together, but we are joined and sharing positive ways and actions of  waiting.

Smiling behind my mask

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.