I’ve always thought of the winter solstice as the low-tide mark of the year, the shortest day, the final test of endurance after which the light begins coming back. But today I’ve been challenged to think of it in another way—to celebrate the darkness. For itself, its healing powers, the dreams it allows.
I’ve been telling myself that though this day is the shortest, nothing has been lost—the night will be the longest. The glass is not half-empty at all, but half-full. (Or all full, only of different things; which reminds me of a favorite line in Murder by Death, “this room is full of empty people!”)
Pacing off the day, I walked the labyrinth, feeling the turns in my body the way the year now turns. Inward, and again outward; the long half circles and the short; the journey centering myself. The center is the fifth direction, where the other cardinal directions join.
I walked through the New Guinea spirit house, after, among the carved wooden figures and crocodile drums, and gathered short-needled evergreen that had been trimmed from the trees there. Then I went to the spice store and bought rubbed sage, French lavender, juniper berries, crushed red pepper, garam masala, cinnamon. And a piece of swordfish, remembering the island where the seller of swordfish—spada—came around in a three-wheeler with a bell; and I was taught to marinate it in a blue bowl with lemon and olive oil and a little salt.
Later perhaps I’ll try this meditation on the riches of the dark that call us home—
“The best meditation for the winter solstice is a simple one that some of you may already know. It is the star in the heart. The evening of the winter solstice, turn out the lights, light a candle, and meditate quietly for a while with the candle, and then blow it out. Sit for a while in the dark. Notice what arises. Is there a fear of the dark? Does it feel peaceful, relaxing? Ask that dark to guide you. People are fond of asking the light to guide them. But there is guidance in the depth of the night, in the darkness of the night sky. Imagine the night sky. Imagine one star coming closer and closer and closer to you, until it enters your heart. Feel that star in the heart . It is radiant. Its bright white light permeates your being, pulsates within you. Feel yourself as a star in the sky, the darkness around you, the light within you, the energy that radiates from you. You, from your heart, by simply being, illumine the darkness. That radiance guides you and illumines the path for others. Light the candle again. Notice the shadows, the interplay of light and dark. You are participating always in that dance of light and...”
(Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans)
image: Michael J. Bennett, Night Sky, Stars, Trees
image: British night sky, Tom Bayly