December gifts us with cultural, religious, and astronomic waiting and anticipation. Advent, Hanukkah (which begins tonight at sundown), and soon, Kwanzaa, all welcome light to illuminate the darkness as successive candles are lit and blessings offered throughout these celebrations.
Tuesday, the northern hemisphere experiences our longest night of the year. Winter solstice marks the turning point when our mighty Sun begins her ascent higher in the sky to give us more sunlight each day. When the sun sets at 4pm or earlier, this is a significant event! I welcome the gentle, subtle shift towards longer days, adding a minute or two of daylight each day until summer solstice arrives on a mid-summer June night after a 9pm setting sun.
Growing up in a conservative Christian home in Arizona where the weather and daylight offered predictable uniformity, winter solstice was a foreign concept except for being told it was a pagan holiday like Halloween that our family would not celebrate. I imagine my upbringing amplifies my adult appreciation for and the significance of this event even more, which has become one of my favorite dates of the year. Honoring the darkness, welcoming the light. Such a stark contrast.
Noticing changes in the sun’s position in the sky and the lengths and angles of shadows cast intrigues me whenever I’m outside. I’m given a divine gift nearly every time I get a late start on a bike ride, run or Nordic ski as I observe the mysterious sky dance with clouds and color around sunset. What will the skies bring tonight? How long will the display last if there is one at all?
The unpredictability of weather offers a sweet opportunity for anticipation without attachment, the chance to interact with whatever is presented with appreciation and flexibility. I write this as I prepare to head into the snowy mountains with friends to ski in cold, windy conditions. The challenges that winter present give me ongoing opportunities to get curious about and befriend my responses—the excited, scared, uncertain, tired and invigorated.
Winter holds various treasures and wonders if we allow ourselves to welcome them. ❄️☃️
I invite you to get curious about…
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, what do the cold and the darkness have to teach you?
How are you at waiting and anticipating? being patient and accepting?
What source of light can you open your heart to at this time of year?
Where can you offer gentleness to someone you’ll be spending more time with than usual this holiday?
In what ways can you offer yourself more grace and kindness?
Click here, Curl up and join me in a video reading Susan Cooper’s, “The Shortest Day”, for Winter solstice. This book is written from a northern hemisphere perspective, which my Nordic heritage appreciated.
The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper
And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Solstice Listening Delights:
CHORAL ARTS NORTHWEST SOLSTICE CONCERT LIVE STREAMED on YouTube TODAY 3PM PT SUNDAY 12/18 directed by our good friend and former Gonzaga University Choral Director, Dr. Timothy Westerhaus Choral Arts Northwest presents music that marks solstice, the beginning of the Festival of Lights, and Las Posadas, with music from Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela. Additionally, we feature Reena Esmail’s new work, The Winter Breviary, which traces a journey through the solstice and combines new texts by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Hindustani raags for the night and morning light hours. Music by Northwest composers Emily Lau, Andrew Jacobson, and Katerina Gimon capture a spirit of wonder, and interludes for piano and oboe seamlessly weave together this concert experience.
Ashanna Solaris: Solstice Rebirth Global Ceremony on Spotify from ClarityBreathwork.com. A couple of my favorites for groups are in this playlist.
Heather Houston songleader and composer from Santa Cruz, CA. Her weekly online women’s choir carried me through covid and still does!
A favorite book this time of year: Wintering,The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Her writing is literally a breath of fresh air. If you’re in the UK, please attend her retreat the end of this month for me! Follow her on Instagram and hear her read to you!