Today is the shortest day of the year. No pressure. No worries, necessarily. No need for us to `be faster, do more quicker.' It's one of nature's ongoing gifts, teaching us to pay attention. Shortest day of the year. Today.
This is also the year's longest night. Again, no pressure. This is just another time for us to be mindful, thoughtful, intentional. What do you do when you find yourself in the dark? It happens to all of us at one time or another. Expected or unexpected. Each of us finds ourselves at some time gradually or suddenly in the dark. What do you do? Do you panic? Do you sing your songs of strength? Do you somehow find a way to light a candle?
Being in the dark can conger up something fearful, something wrong or bad. It's not necessarily so. It can be, but not necessarily. Growing up in a central Illinois, we all paid attention to the seasons and to the ground's rhythms. Even though we thought of ourselves as "town people," we lived in a farm town. My sisters and I could ride our bikes 1 mile west, or a half mile south, or 4 miles east or a mile north before we would be surrounded by corn and beans. We would hear about crops and growing seasons in church and school, at the store or at doctor. We grew up hearing about when to plant and when to harvest. We grew up hearing about the rhythm of tending to the ground. So I know a little about preparing the ground, about planting the seed, about cultivating and nurturing, about pulling weeds, about harvest. I know about the importance of honoring time and the need to allow the ground her rest.
Being mindful of these December days, today's longest night feels like a moment of intention and a time to honor our need for rest. This has been a long year filled to overflowing with emotional highs and lows. My spirit could surely use a night of darkness, of stillness, of gathering in. Farmers know that the ground cannot sustain continual planting. All the nutrients, all the goodness will be used up, will have no way to replenish. The same is true for us, sisters and brothers. We cannot be "on" all the time. We, too will be used up.
This night nature beckons us to pay attention. This night we are invited to be mindful, care-full. Winter Solstice marks the once-a-year moment when darkness holds us. When darkness holds us longer. Being in the dark isn't awful. It doesn't have to be scary. If we stop and wait, we adapt. Soon, what was total darkness, becomes darkness-lite. Soon, we can begin to see in the dark. We may have to move a little slower, look a little closer, maybe even take our time as we make our way. But it is a life-lesson for us: we can make our way in the dark.
What is remarkable about our Winter Solstice is that we are all sharing this day and this night - together. For goodness sake, we celebrate National Pancake Day and National Grandparents Day (both good and worthy celebrations). Today we - all of us - celebrate the Winter Solstice. At 5:23 EST is the Solstice moment for us in the Northern hemisphere to mark. In this moment perhaps we can say a prayer for the world. Choose your words for recovery and reclamation, for care and kindness, for hope and healing for everyone. For those who must be sorely afraid in Syria today, for those who are rebuilding in Paradise; for the child being born in North Korea today and the child who dies too soon from gun violence someplace in the United States. 5:23. Set your alarm.
When it's dark we light candles. When it's dark our senses seem most keen. When it's dark we sometimes pay our best attention. When it's dark our life-songs come back to us and remind us who we are meant to be. Perhaps one song to sing tonight as we pray, "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright..." Blessings on you this day and may God bless us, everyone, this night.
Thanks, Susie for this picture