“The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.”
The image I most associate with Winter Solstice is a bison, in full winter ruff, standing stock-still in snow up to its belly. All around it, the world is either white or gray. It is the symbol, the archetype, of darkness and stillness, its breath-vapor the only movement. Today is the shortest day of sunlight in the northern hemisphere. We modern humans, with our electric lights and heat, don't pay too much attention to the comings and goings of light and darkness, but perhaps we should.
I've noticed the feral black cat that comes to my porch—Catnip is his current name—has fattened up for the cold. In addition to extra food, I put out a cushy cat bed, plus an enclosed box lined with a polar fleece blanket, both of which he steadfastly shuns. They're there to help me sleep, but he doesn't seem to need them. He simply comes, chows down, and disappears until he's hungry again. Who can understand the ways of the feral among us?
Animals in the wild know when to layer on the fat pounds for extra heat, how to minimize their exposure to the cold by scratching out a circle of earth, and curling up in it. Even squirrels have sense enough to go into their holes. We humans, hairless mammals that we are, are in a world of hurt when it comes to exposure to cold. Even with our down jackets and fur linings, our hats and mittens and boots, there's only so much we can do to stay warm. God forbid that we should take a lesson from nature and stay inside, be still, and use this time of relative darkness for rest and reflection.
Consciously marking the turning of the year, the Solstice, is important for spiritual reasons, too. It keeps us connected to the earth, to its cycles and seasons. Like it or not, we are still children of the Great Mother, as well as the Father. In the face of rapid global warming, there's never been a time when we needed to come to terms with that reality more, and to consider ways of individually, and collectively reducing the footprint we leave. We all look forward to the beautiful, joyful and unexpected glory of spring, and we play a role in making it that way. Happy Solstice to you. May you celebrate the turning of the heavenly spheres.
In the Spirit,