The winter solstice is approaching. Again. That time when the earth is tilted farthest from the sun, giving us the shortest day and longest night of the year, this year arriving on Dec 21st. It’s a dark time, a time when I remember my friends who have passed—especially Bear, who just left these parts with her amazing spirit still intact, and Sarah, whose wit and wisdom warmed my life and my book.
This is also the time when long, long ago, our ancestors feared the sun was dying. So they gathered around the fire—to sing, tell stories, and pray for the sun to return. And it worked! For the winter solstice is truly a turning point: each day that follows it grows longer and brighter … until we reach the spring equinox, when daytime and night are equal and perfectly balanced.
But meanwhile, it’s really dark! And the darkness in our natural world is being tragically reflected in our man-made world. Yet what I’ve come to appreciate about the winter solstice is how it’s so upfront, so down to basics in illuminating the theme behind most history, art, religion, and perhaps all of life: a battle between darkness and light. Or maybe not a battle, but an interplay, which we watch unfold in ourselves and in the world. No, not just watch, but partake in. And every bit of light we can bring forth counts.
So I light lots of candles and gather with friends to share music, food, and stories. Some stories make us laugh. Some give us hope (this is, after all, the time of miracles!). And some stories invite us to accept our own darkness, as a way to transform the dark into light. Sarah used to bemoan my call for stories; she preferred our parties that didn’t assign homework! Still, she was a good sport and always came up with a meaningful poem, maybe by Rumi or Mary Oliver.
I miss Sarah. All the time. But perhaps most of all in December. That’s when John and I would gather with Sarah and Paul and do our holiday thing—driving through the streets of Boulder to find the best Christmas lights, listening to free jazz in the elegant lobby of the old Hotel Boulderado, or just eating, with pleasure, the English fruitcake Sarah’s English-born mum would make and send her each year. Sarah guarded those cakes with a fierce love, but generously gave us a slice to share—along with her wonderful, homemade gifts.
One year, the gift Sarah made for family and friends was a calendar, filled with her simple, Zen-like sketches and a meaningful quote for each month. The photograph above shows the page she made for December. And the words she quotes are from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient and sacred Hindu text:
“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”
In this winter solstice and beyond, may you receive all the gifts you are seeking. And may you be blessed and guided to add your light to all the others, until together, and with grace, we bring back the sun.
... With thanks to the Beatles, a solstice gift— “Here Comes the Sun.”