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.
It is winter solstice today. This story came to mind of a much younger me living in Alaska…
In December, the sun dips low in the peach and lavender sky at 1 PM in Fairbanks, Alaska. Night begins to fall slowly at that latitude. When I lived there I learned to embrace the darkness lest I get claustrophobic in the small confines of our cabin. Dressed in layers of wool with a headlamp, I’d go chop firewood, shovel snow, or better yet, go out for a night ski. We lived on Yellow Snow Rd., aptly named for the many dog teams that lived on it so there were plenty of dog trails to ski on in the neighborhood.
Hoar frost was an event. At subfreezing temperatures, moisture present in the air would freeze in a crystalline structure and collect on the surfaces of branches eventually coating them in a sparking beard of white. At 10 below zero to 10 degrees above, a hoar frost provided the perfect conditions to ski.
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, I and others from the time of the ancients mark it as the return of the light each day forward, bit by bit. It is a time of hope and new beginnings – like a solar New Year.
In a couple of hours, a few friends will gather at my home, take a walk, circle around a bonfire, sharing readings and thoughts. We will also toss into the fire the things we are hoping to leave behind. There are plenty for this year 2020 that I don’t even need to mention. As we turn the corner in the heavens, let us heal from these disasters and let the fires of hope burn bright.
Here we are, December 21, 2017, the shortest day of the year or the longest night depending on how you look at it. For centuries ancient peoples have celebrated this event. It is a time of reflection and hope. The light will be returning again. It is no accident that Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 AD chose Christ’s birth to be celebrated around this event. Before this date, there was no history of Christmas being celebrated, but there were festivals around the Winter Solstice. (For an interesting history of Christmas click here).
My long-time women friends and I had our annual gathering yesterday. We shared a meal, poetry, and stories together. As usual, it was lovely. Here is a poem I wrote for the event…