Pondering Darkness

December 20th, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration

I was raised reading Greek mythology to explain the progression of the seasons. To this day, I can’t eat a pomegranate without remembering Persephone.

But I grew up in California, where “seasons” meant a change of 20º in either direction. Here in the pacific northwest the summer really means something, and the winter is all-consuming. My life is guided by “light” in a way that that I’d never understood before. And for every blissful moment of sundown-at-ten midsummer madness, there’s a difficult, up-before-dawn and wind-in-your-bones winter counterpart.

Damian and I celebrating our first Winter Solstice together, circa 2006.

Tomorrow, 21 December, is the shortest day of the year. Ever since the Autumn Equinox, the days have been shorter than the nights – and getting shorter, shorter, shorter. Tomorrow marks the height of darkness. The following day the light begins to grow again.

The Winter Solstice is celebrated worldwide and across all cultures. We are all tied to the earth and her seasons; we are all affected by light. And this shortest day of the year offers a unique opportunity for reflection. It’s a chance to examine our own relationship with the darknesses of the world. A time to hold space for our own dark thoughts.

Back home the Solstice was a favorite holiday. It meant reuniting with lifelong companions, it was deeply steeped in tradition. There was a shared and sacred sunset, and the ritual making of fire. There was the rock labyrinth; there was feast and drink. There was always the circle for sharing. And, there was always the reading of this poem:

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Blessings for your Solstice,

  • Barbara

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem w/us. :)

  • Rea

    This is why my fiancee chose tomorrow for our wedding day <3

  • http://bluknotsoriginals.blogspot.com @tishushu

    This is sooooo sweet… My sweetie and I are headed to view the eclipse in a bit. This is our first Winter Solstice together… Here’s to new traditions… love.love.love… woot.

  • Rebecca

    I just saw that poem somewhere else..can’t remember where though!

    Wow…love the hippie upbrining! I was always a bit lonesome in my innate hippie-dom (I tried to practice mindfulness and simplicity as my brother dragged us to the mall!) My parents are still gift-focused…which frustrates me as a true emotional connection with them would mean so much more…but I digress.

    Particularly since I am a MEGA night owl (uh..bed at 4 am anyone?!?!?) I view the winter solstice as a very hopeful, fruitful time. The idea of days getting shorter and shorter always makes me quite uneasy. Knowing that the “roughest” part is behind me gives me hope that each day will get brighter and brighter (both literally and spiritually/metaphorically)…wow, I really need to remind myself of that more and more, especially now : )

    Happy winter solstice! (and lunar eclipse, and full moon…and on and on!)

  • http://exoticdonkeymeat.com/ Kate

    I love this. Just what I needed.

  • http://awoodennest.blogspot.com Lindsay Jewell

    I like this post. :)

  • Minna

    I love this post and poem, too (: And I love that photo of you two – your light pink hair matches with the sky! So pretty.

    It’s nice that you reminded us the winter solstice. I never really think about it :P Summer solstice is a huge deal, but not winter solstice. February tends to be the coldest winter month in Estonia, so I guess it really doesn’t matter if the days get longer or not, as I know that the worst month awaits… This year has been snowing like crazy, exactly like last year (which I don’t remember cause I skipped winter as I was sunbathing in Australia! Yay!). One town broke its all-time snow depth record already in November! Right now it looks pretty much like a fairy tale outside (http://xoxo.planet.ee/saun.jpg < our little sauna in the countryside) and the good thing is that it doesn't storm and it's quite still. But anyhow – I'm secretly dreaming about moving to a warmer climate when "I grow up" :)

  • Chantelle

    Thanks so much for this post , timely and awesome as usual!You are such an insightful person!
    I’m living in Berlin Germany at the moment , and am surviving on sunlight from about 9am till 3pm :( its challenging to say the least. your post has made me look at the darkness in a new light!

  • Shira

    Thank you, Say, for writing about the solstice. I am in tears as I read it, sitting in the dark rainy morning of this short winter day. I love everyone’s comments. I love and ache remembering our solstices. Your post has given me a portal for entering and being with some of my own darkness.
    Like Kate, “just what I needed”.

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    21 December is my father’s birthday, and when I was young he would tell me and my siblings about the *summer* solstice festival (Southern hemisphere) held every year on his birthday where he grew up in Peru. The seasonal changes are always pure magic to the kid in me, and I hope to impart that to Nina. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Melissa C.

    I love it. Thank you, Sayward.

  • Krysta

    Beautifully written

  • TeanyTinyStar

    That is such a lovely poem :) Happy winter solstice!

  • jenny b

    This poem, came at just the right moment in my time in my world….like things seem to do..I’d never heard it before and I am in love with it. Thanks! xoxoxo Happy winter solstice! Stay warm up there

  • http://twitter.com/FarmerMarketVeg Ali Seiter

    I grew up reading that exact same book of Greek myths and remain fascinated by its colorful pictures and intriguing stories to this day. Happy Solstice, Sayward!