Winter Solstice and the Longest Night

Happy Solstice! On this shortest day and longest night of the year, autumn’s harvest season ends and winter begins. Nearby, a wonderful local bookstore hosts the Point Reyes Books annual reading, named after Wendell Berry‘s “To Know the Dark”:

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Each year around the winter solstice, I go to the sea to take time to remember my father, who died 35 years ago. The ocean was his passion and he passed that love to me. At home we light candles and drink toasts to him, honoring his memory by reading poems he loved.

This year has been more difficult than most. After our election delivered a devastating loss, it’s natural to feel despair – but dangerous to do so for too long, when our friends and neighbors and fellow humans across the world will need help and protection, governance and issues will need vigilant activism in our communities. Maybe above all, this is a time for self-examination.

A dark night of the soul, the existential crisis when we confront the shadows within ourselves and use this time for reckoning, is a time for turning inward and contemplation before girding ourselves for the coming year. In what is traditionally the season of death, the earth still keeps turning on its axis, there still returns the lengthening of days, and preparation for the new growing season. In that, there is always hope.

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About thislittleplot

Writer, hiker, loafer
This entry was posted in Family, Local Area Hikes and trips, Nature, Poetry, Politics, Seasons, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Winter Solstice and the Longest Night

  1. Carol Feiner says:

    absolutely beautiful!

  2. utherben says:

    Wonderful post, my friend (& beautiful photo of the seashore). 2016 has been – and continues to be – irredeemably awful on so many levels; I agree that this is a time for serious self reflection.

  3. Shonna says:

    The worst end to a year of any in recent memory. But, I adore the darkness and reading your post made me feel better. Better things are coming, with very hard work though. Thank you.

  4. This is a great quote. The dark is especially beautiful in the town of Arcata, where I now live. The stars are much more visible there than in my home city (when it’s not raining), which means I now enjoy taking walks at night. The word seems like a completely different place when the sun goes down (or rather when the earth rotates so that the side we’re on is facing away from the sun :P )

    • What a nice image; I love walking at night too. Arcata is a great town; we considered moving there and had a great visit a couple years ago, including the redwoods. A wonderful place to live.

  5. mfreeman706 says:

    Great post, Irene, as always. Love them all. You have a particularly powerful stroke for solstice/equinox reflections. That’s a touching ritual for your father’s memory. Little soothes grief and loss like the ocean. Also, the world’s survived a lot of blustery, damaging leaders. Three cheers to weathering this guy. Hang in there.

  6. owlwoman says:

    Beautiful, moving, inspiring words. It would be so easy – and understandable – to just retreat into permanent hibernation, but we cannot.

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