As I write this, it’s December 21st. Solstice. The shortest day of the year and the first day of Winter.
In the long, long ago, the leafless trees, dark nights and the frigid cold of winter signified a time of slowing down and gathering together. We gathered into groups, ate rich and warming foods, celebrated the bounty of the harvest that would last through until spring came again. The wines and ales put up with the fall harvest were ready to be enjoyed. We lived our lives according to the cycles of the sun — which was life itself. We feared the sun would never come back as the days got shorter and shorter. We lit fires to cast light over the darkness, willing the sun to come back. And it always did, bit by bit, day by day.
I noticed the sun was already on the horizon at 4:00 pm today and it made me excited to know that this may be the shortest day of the year, but tomorrow it would be a little longer.
When I lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories from 1994 to 2007, looking back, I now think of those winters as my favourite time of year. There was so much socializing at potlucks and gatherings over board games with bottles of wine and long conversations. We caught up with friends we didn’t see much during the time of light.
These days, it seems life doesn’t slow down like it used to. And yet, there is so much to slow down for and to be thankful for at this time of year when I am not in such a rush to get out of the cold. As I drive to work each morning, I am awed by the rising orange fireball of the sun as it comes up over the Petitcodiac River. Once, there was a mist rising and I was really tempted to pull over to stand there, just watching.
When I’m in the moment, the pattern left by the blowing wet snow hardened overnight are beautiful and remind me of bird feathers and fish scales. The crunch of my feet on the snow makes my Little happy. The ice patterns on the window of my car as I sit shivering and waiting for it to clear. The beauty of the sunrise and the sunset. The blue of the sky and the golden angles of the sun’s rays just before dusk. The familiar scent of a wood fire that warms my hands and comforts my soul. It's all there.
On my drive to work this morning, a familiar song from childhood Christmases came on the radio and its message, combined with too few hours of sleep, made my eyes water and miss my childhood friend, Ron, who used to love to play Snoopy and the Red Baron during recess. Memory is a funny thing...
As the temperature plummets, winter is officially here, and the looming threat of back-to-back winter storms has forced us to cancel our annual plans to visit my husband’s family to share Christmas. Instead, Cyril and I will hunker down together, and make a cheese fondue — one of the first Christmas traditions we created together. We'll light candles and dip our crusty bits of bread into garlicky, wine-drenched cheesiness. We’ll sip a bottle of wine and Lulu will have her Christmas treat to enjoy. It won’t be quite the same, but there is always the hope of spending New Year’s Eve with the in-laws next weekend.
However you choose to spend this Winterlude, I wish you good food, good cheer, and peace with those you love, as you contemplate your own return to the light.
kathy mercure is a storyhealer, storylistener, and storyteller. Her life’s work is to gently draw stories from her students to help them find their voice and nurture their Wounded Wild Child through journaling. Her passion is to support women in realizing their true identity as Wild Women, claiming their passions, and speaking their truths as they become their most authentic selves.