Here in the northern hemisphere, in the north east of the U.S., we are only a few days away from our winter solstice. For my home here in Upstate New York, this means that Friday, December 21st will be nearly 6 hours shorter in daylight than my summer solstice in June! Boy, can we feel it! The sun is setting by 4:30 and it is completely dark by 5:00. I love the transitions of each season and their dramatic differences. Being a gardener all spring, summer and fall, I love the opportunity to move from the physical to spirit, dream and thought-filled world of winter. This year the rains began in mid September and then turned to snow by the beginning of November. We have scarcely seen the sun but maybe 1 day a week, sometimes even going two weeks with not a glimpse. The older I get the more I am drawn to the light in all ways, and as we move towards the winter solstice, I find myself naturally finding ways to bring light into my life.
On the eve of the solstice we have a fire outside near the woods. Jeff and I make short lists of things we want to release in this last, long night of the season and another of things we want to bring into our lives as the sunlight returns. We may sit by the fire for a long time, thinking of these items on our list and pouring our intentions into them. Then, when we are ready, we place them in the fire to send our wishes up in the smoke, to the stars.
A funny thing I’ve noticed about myself as I age is how much more I like shiny things, pretty things. It reminds me of my grandma, who loved the shirts with all the sequins and beads of bears or butterflies or puppies on them. She would wear the most garish fuzzy red hat, with a bright scarf and one of these bedazzled shirts. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing, until I noticed myself being drawn to clothes woven with sliver threads or shimmery sequins. It’s all about the light! So to, I’ve noticed how I find ways to bring light (A.K.A. Joy) into my days as soon as the grey skies of winter are upon us.
If you are anywhere in the northern hemisphere your days are getting shorter, and even if you have lots of sun, now would be a great time to do some of these things to bring in more light.
One of my favorite things to do to help me through these darker days is play with friends. One friend, five friends, it doesn’t matter. Do something fun or different and find any excuse to laugh. We love to go to the movies or out to eat or for coffee. Or we’ll try on clothes we would never actually buy, dance to music we don’t normally listen to and try any moves our bodies can do. Just thinking about it makes me smile as I type this. Of course, you can do these thing by yourself too. I love to do each of these alone or if a friend isn’t available and I really need to get out and play a little. Someone always catches me cracking up by myself in the card aisle of a store. I just can’t help it.
Now is a perfect time to experiment. Make or do something that you’ve never done before. This could be yoga in your home, a new dish or dessert, a sewing project or painting something. Don’t take it too seriously, it is only your first time and the point is to enjoy yourself. These things challenge our minds and expand our perceptions of ourselves. We may even find a new hobbie or skill we love. I love to cook and we have so much stored food to cook with that this is my go-to place for being creative in the winter. Recently I’ve been playing with shiitake mushroom and dried tomato pates. They’ve been pretty good, but not absolutely delicious yet. I love this challenge. I also made gluten free sugar cookies, totally making up the recipe since the ingredients I had available didn’t exactly match anything I found in my cookbooks or online. I then made my own icing, with the help of various sources and flavored each color just for the fun of it. I mean, really. How can that turn out terrible? Fortunately it didn’t and I can send some off to family and friends for the holidays.
My favorite way to get inspired is to see, listen or read about what other folks have done. For me this means watching a cooking show or listening to a podcast or audio book. But my truly favorite way is to make a cup of strong black tea with cream and honey and read an autobiography or inspirational/self-help style book. These are always about how someone
managed in difficult times and the ways they sought and found the light. One was about a potter who discovered for herself that method of bringing more beauty to her bowls and vases by breaking them and mending with silver. Another was the narrow survival of an Everest climber. Anyone’s journey to new insights and self realization is fascinating and inspiring. Many fictions do this too. Recently I started Robin Hobb’s first series, The Farseer Trilogy. The lead character has many obstacles to overcome and learn from, and while he does, he develops incredible skills. I can see these books will be keeping me company all winter.
Bring in the light!
Lastly, bring in the light. Literally! Light a few candles in the evening, or better yet, get those tiny, white string lights and put them up in your home, around a picture, over the bathroom mirror, in the kitchen. Wherever you spend time and can see and enjoy them. I put mine outside on my porches and a few inside. I light candles at the dinner table and in the bathroom around the tub. I’ll burn incense of juniper and pine, or have a diffuser with lemon or orange essential oil. The fragrance of these plants feels bright and smells heavenly.
It’s crucial that we find our own ways to keep our internal flame burning. There is no time to be self-conscious or concerned with what others think. This for you. Enjoy the light!
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