The day after Christmas there’s this cosmic exhale. It’s like a switch flips from the hysteria of the holidays to thinking about the New Year to come and cleaning up the mess of the old. It’s the time of not doing, not shopping, not cooking, and not decorating. It’s a time of regrouping. It’s a good time to read, reflect, and rest.
Austin Kleon calls it Dead Week. I prefer to call it the Pause, the little grace period between old and new. So as I pause, I wish all my readers, the ones I know and the ones I’ve yet to meet…
We have arrived at the Winter Solstice, the tipping point where we in the N. Hemisphere mark the point where the earth will begin to rotate back to the sun’s full exposure. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. While our modern calendar denotes it as the first day of winter, there are those of us from the time of the ancients that mark it as a time of hope and new beginnings as the light returns each day, bit by bit.
On this longest night
we hover on the brink of change
plants shudder in their sleep
as do we
for the brightening of the coming days
and a poem from my friend and poet Bethany Lee
Assembling at Solstice
your soul remembers
your first time here
on the dark side of the sun
How you wondered
at this descent into night
Your mothers sang you the songs of joy
lit wicks against despair
Your fathers polished harnesses
by firelight, quietly
trusting in reaping’s return
These are the days for polishing
for trusting and for singing
for gathering the wisdom
of those who make their lives by hand
These are the days for stories by candle
of lamps that stayed burning
of stars in the sky
of new life coming always
into the unexpected places
like snowbanks and stables
and endings and springtime
Alone our souls remember the darkness
Together we summon and kindle the light
Happy solstice everyone!
Illustration and Winter Solstice poem by the author.
After our sweet 17-year-old Bandit the red heeler passed two years ago, we thought a break from dog care, especially that of the elder type, would do us good. I was hoping our cats would fill the void and miraculously become lap cats, but they had other plans and demanded to be outdoor kitties no matter how much I tried to convince them otherwise.
Then come 2022 with all our personal losses, there was a wide void that needed to be filled. I decided two years without a dog is enough. I began a search in earnest online, Petfinder, Craigslist, and dog rescues. Requirements- no puppies, already trained, no “fixer-uppers.” (been there, done that.) I needed a ready-made companion that would help get me out of the house. Finally, after several months enter Mars, a Craigslist pooch a gorgeous male half-cattle dog and half-husky or German shepherd. His 2nd owner was moving to Maui and his first owner moved to France. I on the other hand was settled and not budging from my home in Oregon of 30 years
Mars was a gift. He fit into our lives like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle with a soft satisfying snap. Mars adores going on walks, playing ball, cuddling, and being our guy. It’s amazing how much a dog can offer to one’s life. He has brought the two of us so much happiness. Meet Mars…
Artwork, video, & home photos by the author. Beach photos by Twee Ngyuen.
One of my favorite sayings comes from the bible Ecclesiastes 3:1-8…
“To everything a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…”
As the year winds down and daylight wanes with winter, I start thinking more about my purpose in life. Purpose gives one reason to get up in the morning. It’s a use of time that contributes to others, yourself, and/or the earth. Having purpose is less subject to change than having goals. Goals are embedded within purpose. For example, if my purpose is to be a writer, publishing a book might be a goal. One of my purposes is to help the environment. A goal to accomplish that is to establish a native plant garden on my property which I’m currently working on.
Purpose can be multifaceted and can change with life stages. Before it was fairly simple- survive my middle school teaching job, be a good mother, and hang onto my creative outlets as best I could in the process. Living a purposeful life has become murkier as I’ve retired and my son is raised and out of the house. I am more in control of my life than before so it’s up to my discretion to figure it out rather than have it be molded by outside circumstances. This can be a daunting task and I’ve had to be intentional about it.
Now as I age I set my purpose to maintain my health, stay connected to nature, stay connected with family and friends, help with environmental causes, and keep my many creative pursuits going while sharing them with others. I post a little diagram of purpose along with some goals on my dry-erase board so it is easily seen and adjusted if need be (I’m one of those people that needs a visual).
Life is complicated. When I feel lost my visual acts as my GPS, keeps me on track ,and my spirit grounded. It answers that question- uh, what exactly am I doing here?