Happy Winter Solstice! Today, at exactly 10:27 pm EST, the earth’s northern pole will reach its maximum tilt away from the sun. Our little star will stand still for a moment as it hovers between the light and the dark. At 10:28 pm, the pole will have begun its journey back towards the sun and the dawning of the light is imminent.

Rob Rey, “The Sun is Born: Winter Solstice”

This is Midwinter, featuring the shortest day (and longest night) of our northern year. Also known as Yule, this time of commemorating the return of the sun and the warmth is one of humanity’s most ancient winter celebrations. Earlier peoples were fundamentally connected to the changing of the seasons. Their survival depended on their relationship with nature and growing things. If you’re interested in reading more on various historical and contemporary culture’s Solstice celebrations, you can find information here: https://secretsuffolk.com/the-winter-solstice-yule-and/ and here: https://www.theguardian.com/discover-culture/gallery/dark-mofo-2014-winter-solstice-gallery

Odin’s wild hunt during the winter Solstice. Image via secretsuffolk.com

Evalds Dajevskis – Kekatas: Winter Solstice Celebration

Audrey Benjaminsen, The Yuletide Beast

For all the busy-ness of contemporary life and quickening pace of human development, both of which seem impossibly monumental to keep up with, I wonder if there yet remains a primal undercurrent reverberating through the soul of humanity – one that longs for connection with something deeper, with an ancient knowing inside ourselves, an awareness from a time when we were intuitively entwined with our environment.

The metaphorical implications of the long night followed by a breaking dawn are self-evident. Artworks about wintertime and the Solstice often reveal this sense of magic, wonder and awe that we share with our distant ancestors.

Miranda Meeks, Winter’s Solstice

Yongjae Choi, Mila – Crafty Companion for Magic the Gathering

Rovina Cai, Tom Thom

Jeff Preston, Winter Wraith

Arthur Rackham

A Time for Introspection

While celebrating the return of the light and the lengthening of days is innate, I also appreciate the cold darkness of Midwinter. It is a naturally quiet time, blanketed with snow and sleepy mornings, a sacred season to turn inward, coccoon a little and let your mind wander through the previous year’s experiences. Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t, the challenges you faced and the accomplishments you’re proud of, what you’re grateful for and what you’re ready to let go of… it’s a fine time to contemplate what achievements you’d like to be celebrating next Midwinter, after one more year of your life’s adventure, as this can be the beginning of clarifying your next year’s plan.

Claude Monet, The Magpie

Ivan Shishkin, In The Wild North

Caspar David Friedrich, Cairn in the Snow

Gustaf Fjæstad, Winter Painting

Colin Poole, Winter on the Chama

Ed Binkley, Winter

“Midwinter then has always been a feast of promise, of better times to come: hope amidst despair, light in darkness and birth in death, as part of the eternal wheel of life, death and rebirth as described by the seasons and the passage of the sun throughout the year.” ~ SecretSuffolk.com

Andrew Wyeth, Snow Hill

Alphonse Mucha, Christmas in America

Maxfield Parrish, Farm Evening Winter

Jamie Wyeth: Catching Snowflakes

Our Solstice Celebrations

Colin and I don’t follow any particular “guidelines” when it comes to our celebrations, but we do have traditions that have evolved through the years. Some are based in historical traditions and some are of our own creation. We welcome the freedom to follow where our hearts lead.
* We clean, organize and reset our home and creative areas, opening our minds and spaces for new inspiration.
* The evening before the Solstice, we lay a fire. We spend a few moments considering the previous year, where we’ve been and where we want to go, metaphorically. We look for some aspect of our self that is no longer serving our growth and importantly, one that we’re ready to let go of. We sculpt a quick effigy representing that trait, habit or foible. While we’re quite serious about looking at ourselves honestly and committing to moving on from that tiresome aspect, when it comes to the depiction, the more facetious, the better. If it makes you laugh when you look at it, you’re well on your way to being free of it. We set our statuettes on the logs in the fireplace and light the fire. They sometimes explode, which is oddly very satisfying. The next morning, we clean the fireplace and any surviving parts of the effigies are smashed outside, which is also oddly satisfying and feels like getting to start over with a clean slate.

Effigies of old, outworn ways of being, offered to the fire

* Solstice eve, we decorate a Yule log – no not the contemporary cake version. It’s an actual log that’s festooned and garlanded with greenery and ribbons and burned in the hearth. Each year, we save a small charred piece of the log that is then used to light the following year’s Yule log. We light candles in the east facing windows to welcome the sun. We set out small glasses for sharing a toast with the memories of our departed loved ones. We share stories of the joy they brought to our lives.
* Having purged ourselves of some of the weight of the past and celebrated the joyous memories, we then write wishes for the future on bay leaves and set them into the Yule fire to be carried off into the night breeze.

A Little “H*art to H*art Chat: Some Final Thoughts on Challenge and Change

2023 was anticipated to be the breaking dawn, finally emerging from the pandemic chaos, yet it unfortunately turned out to be particularly harsh for many people. In the face of the many, many things we are grateful for (each other most of all), we also suffered a number of heartbreaking losses. As a friend wryly observed this fall, “your year was total shit!” But the dark times often bring wisdom and compassion. Along with all of you, we look forward to the coming of the sun.

Photo by George Hannemann, Jr.

Sixteen years ago October 7, I woke up, opened my eyes and thought, “I’m done.” There were no lists of pros and cons, no debates and no emotions around that notion. Just a quiet clarity deep within me that where I was was no longer where I was meant to be, no longer where I was willing to be. That moment represented a seismic shift in the tectonic plates of my life. An enormous rift opened, only I wasn’t falling into an abyss, I was being ejected out of one.

Frederic Edwin Church, The Iceberg

I had no plan, no knowledge of how to scale the mountains of change that had just sprung up in front of me, only the certainty that my path lie elsewhere. So I took the first step, and then did the only thing I could think of to do – I looked to see what I could see from my new vantage point. Then I took another step and another. It wasn’t easy – certainly, there were many challenges, many days I wanted to curl up into a little ball and disappear for a bit.

Alphonse Mucha, Woman in the Wilderness

But I kept walking. As the days passed, one mountain after another moved and the universe began to open. Then Colin and I met. My life metamorphosed and blossomed into something beyond my imagining. I am grateful every day for the moments we get to share – the fun days, the hard days, the poignant and brilliant days – all of it.

I share this now because I see there are many people facing difficulties and challenges and heartache. On this momentous anniversary in my life, I was thinking of all of you. And I wanted to say a couple things: 1. Whatever it is you’re facing, you got this. You are stronger than you think and, more importantly, stronger than you could ever know. One step at a time. There is a “then I came out the other side” for all of us.
2. Wherever you are, I’m proud of you. I may not know you personally and likely do not know anything about your particular journey, but I’m proud of the spirit and fortitude it took for you to be here now. Keep going. Rest when you need to, but don’t quit.
3. In my experience, these are things that were helpful to me: 1) Get some sleep – many insurmountable things look a bit more manageable when you’re not exhausted 2) Eat good food – your body being properly nourished will help your mind in ways that are hard to fathom 3) Quit sugar – being free of the hyper/crash cycle will change your life 4) Exercise often, if not daily – whatever it is you can do, do it. Even if (and especially when) you don’t feel like it 5) When you can get out into nature, do. 6) Be kind to yourself – say positive things to yourself, about yourself when you’re by yourself. Make peace with your inner critic. 7) Meditation helps. This may be taking a moment to focus on breathing, learning to meditate or listening deeply to birdsongs – find something that brings a peaceful space to your mind and go there often. 8) Feed your mind as well as your body. Be careful of what you ingest. Read and listen to things that empower and uplift you. 9) Ask for help from trusted people when you need help. You don’t have to figure it all out alone. 10) Sometimes the best way to lighten your load is to help someone else with theirs for a bit.

Wishing you a peaceful Solstice and a new year of dreams fulfilled and new dreams born.

I can’t resist just a few more winter images for contemplation and inspiration!

Frank Frazetta, The Silver Warrior

Jaime Jones, Winter Road

Edmund Dulac, Snow Queen

Justin Gerard, Boar Rider

Grant Wood, January

Lawrence MacDougall, Border Patrol

Utagawa Hiroshige, Night Snow at Kambara

Omar Rayyan, Snow Covered Forest