21 December 2016

Solstice 2016: More light

It only gets brighter from here on out. The turning point. The pivot. The stopping. Tonight is the Solstice, and for me, perhaps even more than New Year's, it marks a new beginning -- literally and figuratively. It is literally the start of less night and more day. It is also the beginning of the next cycle of growth.

Tonight we celebrated with a meal we often make on Solstice -- fondue. Then, a first, we opened a gift to our family -- something we will all enjoy together in the coming year: a programmable robot named Sprk+.  Well, some of us will enjoy it more than others, let's be honest.

We also wandered the neighborhood admiring the extraordinary holiday lights. And we stopped in at a neighbor's Solstice party -- complete with bonfire and toddys.

I know more holidays are yet to come, but this one is quickly becoming my favorite, for its quietness, its focus on warmth and light, and for how it links us to the observances that humans have been making for millennia. Here comes the sun.

19 December 2016

Solstice 2016: Twinkle

There's nothing I love more at the darkest time of the year than small lights everywhere -- holiday or otherwise. Seattle seems particularly well-lit during the winter months, which makes all the darkness actually something to enjoy.

18 December 2016

Solstice 2016: Together

No, we don't have snow. This picture was taken at least a couple years ago at the park up the hill from our house. But this weekend did afford the opportunity to pick up some used Nordic skis and boots for Wy so that all three of us will have gear to do some playing in the snow soon. Now that he's almost six, he says he wants to give it a try.  So next week, we'll be heading to the snow for some cross-country skiing.

And speaking of new things and our local park, today we spent some time helping Wy practice bike riding. He has kind of ignored his bike for the past year, so we're hoping with a little encouragement that he'll get interested again and develop into a good little rider.

After riding at the park for a bit, the bike was put aside and the three of us played an epic round of hide and seek. We took turns finding hiding spots and trying to discover each other. We played until it started getting dark. Giggling and running and counting to 15 over and over.

We have played at this park with our  kiddo for years now. Our games have changed over time, but the simple fun of being together and being silly has not. We're hoping for some silliness together in the snow next week too.

17 December 2016

Solstice 2016: Warmth

Warmth is . . .
Walking to the home of good friends and enjoying laughter, food, and conversation together
Working puzzles with your kid
Sipping hot chocolate from your thermos on a cold-day hike
Putting your cold hands in someone else's warm pockets
Reading holiday cards from friends you haven't seen in 15 years
Wool socks between your feet and the floor
Holding a 3-week old baby
Spontaneous fun with friends
Knowing you made a good decision
Sharing chocolate with someone you like
Playing in the snow
Reading a book you enjoy
Morning coffee made before you ask
Kitties that purr
Holding hands
It's what we need more of in this dark and cold time.

16 December 2016

Solstice 2016: Calm and Bright

Today the sun was bright, the sky blue, and you could see the snow on the mountains. It was clear and cold and sunny.  I am  amazed at the impact light has on one's outlook. Oh, and also how much cuddling improves your day.

I got to start my day by holding a warm and calm and cuddly little baby -- my three week old niece -- when her folks came by for a breakfast visit. Nothing beats baby time.

Later, after retrieving my own kiddo from school a little early, we headed downtown for a special Christmas tea date with our friend Kathleen at The Sorrento. The hotel was decorated with garlands and lights and trees, putting us all in a festive mood.  There was surprising calmness from the 5-year old (perhaps the three tiers of pastries, sandwiches and desserts wore him down?) and we managed to enjoy a fairly civilized outing (silly selfies notwithstanding).

Once we returned home, our afternoon involved some quiet time and lots of snuggling while we recovered from our food coma and restored ourselves in anticipation of an evening Christmas concert with friends. Wy and I sat together in our biggest chair wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, talking about our day and ideas, and just being quiet together. The calm and cozy time we spent together today reminded me so much of the early days of  motherhood, when Wy and I would go-go-go all day long and finally, around 3:30, crash on the couch where we'd both fall asleep for an hour or two as the winter sun set.  Today, just like then, I very much enjoyed the calmness of snuggling together as the western light faded.

At tonight's concert, however, there was minimal calmness displayed by the two five-year olds we had in our company.  We made it through to the end of the program without too many problems, but with a considerable amount of shushing along the way.  

As the concert ended in candlelight with all of us softly singing along to Silent Night, for just a moment, I could not help thinking about how much brightness and even a few episodes of calmness I enjoyed today.

And then we bolted after the kids for cookies and drinks before heading out into the very cold night for home.

15 December 2016

Solstice 2016: Dark Days

A couple of years ago, I started writing each day during the days leading up to the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice.  Although I know I haven't frequented this space often in the last few months, I'm looking forward to writing again over the next few days -- my Seven Days of Solstice -- about what I'm thinking and feeling this time of year.

At the risk of stating the obvious, today seemed dark.  The spectacular super moon of Monday was nowhere to be seen this morning.  Although the day started cold with high clouds, the clouds swooped in by late morning so that by two o'clock it was gray and cold, making you feel like everywhere you went you were standing in the shade.  I turned on the Christmas tree light at 3:30 p.m. and they brightened the room.  It was that kind of gray.

Weather aside, other parts of my life are feeling dark as well as of late. On Monday, I spent time with someone I have not seen in too long.  She and I have been friends since 1992.  She is a mentor to me.  A friend.  A master gardener.  An inspiration. A person who makes everything she does look easy.  Our visit was bittersweet, however, because I visited her in a rehabilitation center where she is spending her last days.  She has stage four cancer and her time is precious.  She is so much herself -- yet with so much gone already.  I am so sad and so happy to have seen her to say good bye.  

And today, despite an intelligent and rejuvinating conversation about life and goals and the state of the world with a dear friend and colleague, I remain very down about the future of America, especially with so many foxes being appointed to guard the hen house.  I am void of the optimism of my friend and many other smart people I know.  And I have no faith that, even if millions of phone calls are made to the right people, America's electoral college will demand a recount and somehow ensure that only a person fit to govern gets the Presidency. At this point, I'm not even sure who that would be.

Gloom notwithstanding, I'm terribly grateful for the bright spots in these dark days -- and there are some.  Perhaps I notice them more on days like this?  That bit of bright conversation with my fellow co-op parents at the end of the school day.  Warm cups of tea at my desk.  Baked potatoes.  Board games after dinner with my family.  Starting a new book. 

I also hope that I am getting better at dealing with the dark days than I used to be.  Not dreading them.  Not wasting energy disliking them.  Wearing a long warm coat to keep warm.  Taking Vitamin D in large quantities . . . . As for the emotional dark days, I'm trying to internalize my own parenting . . . I coach my little boy to "let the sad feelings be with you until they are done."  I'm practicing that.  

Photo: Super moon setting over the Olympic Mountains at dawn.  December 12, 2016. Seattle, Washington.