In Writing

Regular readers will know that the winter solstice is a special day for me, and that I often mark it with a post. The winter solstice is the day that taught me to look on the bright side.

I live in the northeast, where winter can often loom long. Winters can be hard, but I relish what they teach me about the cycle of life. Everything in life ebbs and flows. Romances begin and end. Children are born and grow up and start their own lives. Fortunes are made and lost.

Winter feels like an inhale, a time to reflect, a season for stillness. There is nothing quite so serene and beautiful as a blanket of snow under moonlight.

Still, we’re creatures at our core, yearning to turn our faces to the light, hungry for the first stirrings of life in the ground, for the smell of green on the breeze. I’m no different. Even as the leaves on my plants are dying back in October and into November, I’m sending them a silent wish: come back soon, my loves. It hurts a little to see the things I’ve tended and loved, admired and displayed, get cold and wither back. Sometimes, when I’m shoveling the snow off my walk next to my row of dormant iris rhizomes, I talk to them, and say, “Hang on, little ones. The snow will melt one day soon.”

Yeah, I’m weird like that.

By most accounts, December is the start of winter. (By all of them, I suppose). But here’s the hidden gift in the winter solstice: although it signals the start of winter, it also holds the seed for the renewal that will one day come. Although it seems the beginning of darkness, it’s actually holds its opposite in its hand. Days will get colder for months (I took a class on weather patterns in college, I can explain why if you’re interested), yet today is the shortest day. So, even as it seems cold, and bleak, and lightless, events are conspiring in ways you cannot see to bring back the spring. Days will only get longer from here.

Ah, but! you say, perhaps: Isn’t it the same in the summer? Even as summer blooms, the northern hemisphere begins its tilt away from the sun, making the days ever shorter. Indeed. But here’s what the winter solstice taught me: I can thank it for its turn to light, if I need to, and not focus on the other side of its coin. The winter solstice reminds me to look on the bright side.

Balance in life requires that we embrace all that is: winter and summer, sadness and joy, justice and injustice. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus on what brings us hope, and energy, and happiness. The winter is beautiful, and I welcome it with open arms. But on this day, I always remind myself: the spring is already on its way. And that makes the winters of my life sweeter.

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