It’s the sound of snowfall, of twinkling lights on a Yule tree, of children fast asleep.
It’s the hush of Winter Solstice, this quiet, this stillness.
Someone asked me how I celebrate the Solstice. My favorite way to mark the holy day is by honoring my own desire to withdraw into quietness.
The Yuletide season begins for us with intense socializing and loving our community. Last weekend Craig and I and my circle-sisters hosted our annual St. Lucia Party, which is always held the second weekend in December (closest to December 13th, St. Lucia’s Day). It took a solid week for me to shop, clean, decorate, and prepare the house for the party. Then the house was full of friends, starting with a small group on Friday who helped to decorate, change the rooms from everyday use to party rooms, and make the lussekatter after a simple supper. On Saturday evening the house was filled with more than 50 guests, and on Sunday morning, we had 17 for brunch (yes! everyone helped).
Some months ago, we decided that this would be our last Lucia Party, after hosting it for 17 years. On Sunday afternoon, as a few of us sat around the Yule tree and shared stories after brunch, my friend Elaine asked me how I felt about the decision. I answered that it was very bittersweet; I will miss our home being filled with so many lovely people and with such good cheer. But I’m older now and I am ready to pass this tradition on to younger ones. This year, preparing for the party took a lot out of me, and by Sunday afternoon I just wanted to curl up with my blankie for a long winter’s nap.
So I gave myself permission to do just that, this past week between Lucia and Solstice. I worked only part of each day, and the rest of the time I napped, read, went to yoga, got a massage, and walked in the crisp cold air. Then I napped some more. (Yes, I am most grateful that I am self-employed and can give myself permission to do this.) It occurred to me that I was doing exactly what I encourage others to do in my Winter Solstice ecourse:
- Sleep more.
- Give yourself chunks of me-time, alone-time.
- Schedule in time on your calendar for doing nothing. Call it “Reflection time.”
- Light a candle, brew some tea.
- Shut the door, turn off the phone, close down the laptop. Turn the lights down. Put on some quiet Yuletide tunes.
- Muse. Dream. Drift. Sketch. Read. Write. Pray. Whisper to the close and holy darkness.
As Winter Solstice approaches, I am still centered in that quiet, shut-it-all-down, hermiting space, not quite ready for the revelry of the family Christmas gathering next week.
So Solstice is all about quiet for me. Quiet, stillness, and silence. If the weather is clear on Solstice morning, I will rise before dawn to go to the lake or another spot where I can watch the sunrise. I might go alone, or perhaps I can cajole my beloved out of bed to go with me. I love greeting the sun with an open heart, praying for those I love and for the planet, offering up gratitude, reflecting on the year gone by and my hopes for the year to come. I will read Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” out loud, remembering how we read it every year at our Lucia Party, and all those gathered call out loudly at the end: Welcome Yule!
Later on Solstice Day, I might visit our local labyrinth and do a walking meditation. Or I might go to the beach and make little altars out of stones, feathers, driftwood, and shells. I might take a walk through the woods, greeting the nature spirits and wildlife, and wishing them all a Joyous Solstice.
At home, I will keep most electric lights off all day (except the twinkle lights on our tree), and keep the house lit only by candles and natural light. I learned this practice from my friend Waverly Fitzgerald, who spends the day in silence as well as in the gathering darkness of natural light lit by candlelight. Craig and I might make a delicious dinner together, and afterwards we’ll pour a special drink, light a candle, and talk about the ups and downs of the year gone by. We might play James Wells’ Tarot Circle Game. We’ll toast each other and express our gratitude for each other and our partnership, after 17 years together.
Then it will be time to head out to join friends for the Grand Dance for Solstice, a Bellingham tradition which combines contemplative meditation and ecstatic dance. The following night we’ll join others out in the county for a Solstice Circle and feast, another tradition of 20+ years.
But even in the midst of mingling with others, I’ll be keeping this shimmering Solstice silence in my heart.