Welcome to the Winter Solstice. The sun, such as it is, here in Vancouver rose at 8:05 AM and will set at 4:17 PM. Just over 8 hours of wet grey and then 12 hours of wet black. That’s a lot of darkness. A lot of dreary. A lot of wet. A lot of ‘blah’.
I saw several people on Twitter wishing others “a winter solstice full of light.” “Here’s hoping your solstice is bright.” That kind of thing.
And that got me to pondering…
The Winter Solstice isn’t about the light is it? The winter solstice is by definition about the darkness.
And right away, let me digress, to assure you that I do understand the converse too, that we have a need to “rage against the dying of the light.” We crave the light, miss it, must have it. We’re scared of the dark. Aren’t we? From our childhoods when monsters could only crawl out of the closet when it was dark. To our adolesence when we watched The X-Files and Halloween in the dark to enhance the scariness. To our adulthood when we lock the doors and close the curtains to protect us from the darkness outside and then go ahead and stew up our internal darkness anyway, and always in that darkest time before the dawn.
But what could we learn if we would surrender to the darkness? If we would let go of our dependence on our own certainty, our sight sense for a moment? What if we could learn to walk peacefully with the wild animals in our dark forests? What can we gain from being outside of the light?
The darkness is a place of fallow. It’s creative composting. A place for roots to dig down deep seeking the warmth in the blanket of earth. It’s a place to shake hands and have those important conversations with our shadow selves. There are words that can only be spoken in the dim light of a candle. It’s using our other senses to guide us. The darkness invokes a sacred space where spirit can enter.
So to celebrate the winter solstice: slow down, bundle up, lie down, snuggle up, write down what you dreamt about, get into some warm water, drink up some red wine or blueberry tea (tea, amaretto, grand marnier), take in Where the Wild Things Are, meditate under a blanket, invite your soul-mate to you for a dinner and conversation over candlelight, write things down by hand with a calligraphy pen on beautiful paper, compose poetry, read until you have a book hangover and then nap some more. If you are very brave, go for a walk in the darkness (maybe take your dog).
Listen, feel, smell — sense for the things you can’t see.
Or alternately, just let yourself be. After all, composting just happens. You don’t have to do anything to it. Things rot, stew and become fertile in the dark and cold all on their own without seeking or questing for it. Maybe we can too.
So, the darkness is fleeting and this year I am not wishing it away. This year, I am embracing the darkness — the ridiculously wet Vancouver darkness.
Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night
and by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead
Oh night thou was my guide
oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other
Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t’was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come
Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
And by the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow
I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lovers breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair