Winter solstice is finally upon us.
As the days grow shorter and shorter, I know I’m not alone in feeling like following the bears and the toads into hibernation. Can’t I stay in bed today? Can’t I just pull the covers up and let the world pass me by for a while?
Surely for most of human history, the answer would have been a resounding yes.
In the summer months when the light is strong, we are pulled to steady, sustained activity, just like all the other animals and plants. And then in the winter, we have always been allowed to rest.
Now, in the 21st century, we must labor under the fiction that it doesn’t matter what’s happening outside our windows. As long as the power stays on, the cell phones are charged and the gas pumps keep running, we need to keep working at the same frenetic rate, month in and month out, all year round.
It’s dark now, here in the northern hemisphere; dark, cold and gray. In this weather, we humans have always lounged around our campfires and told each other the stories that keep our creative genius alive.
The advent of writing changed this, of course. With written texts, we could read any time, summer or winter, without waiting for the bard to be in residence and ready to recite.
In these dark days of winter, we need to return to the storytelling traditions of our forefathers and foremothers, but at the same time we should take care about what kinds of stories we’re listening to. Are we listening to stories that can inspire courage, hope, and greatness in ourselves and our young people? Or are we wasting our time with mindless, repetitive horror and nihilism?
What stories are you and your children listening to in these darkest days of winter? What stories are you living? What are you doing with these precious dark dreaming days?
My suggestion is to dive down deep into the darkness. Don’t hide from it. Don’t let the mind games of electricity persuade you to pretend that the Solstice doesn’t matter.
Sun and moon, earth and stars, cold and ice, bare branches and still boulders. Now is your time, and our time to get to know you.
Slowly, slowly, the days will grow longer.
For now, let us give the dark its due. Let us embrace the quiet, introspective time the Solstice encourages. Let us meet with like-minded souls to raise a glass to the joys of darkness—and the eventual return of the light.
Photos c. J. Browdy 2014