Solstice 2014: Perspective

I think I have finally made peace with the darkest days of our Northwest winter.  I'm finding more value in this time of year, which can offer a bit of down time and a chance to reset.

That said, it feels like every December I have less and less tolerance for The Holiday Season.  While I love the opportunity to see special people and enjoy certain foods, I loathe the extra expenses, the pressure to send cards, and the idea that I'm going to acquire more stuff, which I don't need.  On the other hand, I am intrigued by the notion of finding light in what seems dark.  And so I persist in trying to look at this time of year with new eyes.

Often we have celebrated the Winter Solstice with dinners and small rituals that let us mark the end of the lengthening nights.  While the long days of summer light may be what we yearn for most, the current darkness we enjoy offers the important chance to restore ourselves and to reset our journey's course. 

As a gardener, the darkest time of the year is the only true garden rest that I (or the soil that) will take.  Anyone who gardens knows the importance of this pause.  Nothing is growing right now.  I may have plants surviving, still edible, hanging on, waiting for spring.  But nothing is growing.  The light is too weak, the days are too short.  In my vegetable garden, the soil is mostly covered.  As for me, I am no longer required to remain vigilant about what needs to be harvested or planted or watered.  I'm on vacation.

As a cook, the dark days bring a new opportunity for creativity.  It's a shift from freshly harvested to stored foods -- squash, root vegetables, beans, lentils, potatoes and leeks.  I get to consider how to cook things like Jerusalem artichokes and turnips instead of dealing with green beans coming out my ears and fruit flies that never die.  The seasonal urgency of use/eat/preserve-it-or-lose-it is over.

And in the life of my mind, I notice that my desire returns this time of year to become more still.  To read, think, write,  listen, and learn more than I do the rest of the year.  I sometimes become inspired to begin a new endeavor.  I think ahead.  Anticipate.

And there you have it -- this darkness is really about anticipation for me.

So here I am, finding myself actually enjoying these weeks of long nights -- and creating something new out of it for myself: The Seven Nights of Solstice.  I hope to be in this space regularly during our next seven spins on our axis.  My goal is to describe for you -- but mostly for myself -- the things I find most worth noticing and taking in fully in these days and nights leading up to the Solstice.

Photos: The illuminated path (top) and lighted canoes on the lake (bottom) at the 2014 Green Lake Pathway of Lights, Seattle, Washington.



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