It is early morning on the eve of the winter solstice, neither dark nor light but both—in a way. Even for north Florida, it is cold. I have the car heater on low as I drive to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.
It is perfect winter solstice weather.
The solstice celebrates the dark during a season given to light, a reminder that in light there is always dark. Yin-Yang. Oneness.
And there is the inherent stillness of the solstice. The increasingly dark and deepening autumnal sleep culminates in the pivotal moment of the winter solstice.
After this day, every dawn will mean more light and less night, as slumber gives way to the awakening of the spring solstice.
Every year, I write these words or similar ones regarding the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Usually, I celebrate the event with a walk around Waverly Pond but this has not been a year of “doing things as usual,” even holiday traditions.
Rather, it has been a year of firsts. Some may mean new traditions for me, among them driving to St. Mark’s on the eve of the solstice. Perhaps more than any other season of my life, I am immersed in transformation.
It is not surprising that I am drawn to the Refuge where transformation is in evidence everywhere.
Areas of longleaf pine stand stark in their burnt orange and black beauty against gray, morning skies. Wiregrass is the color of wheat ready to harvest.
It is the season for prescribed or controlled burning, a matter of survival for the longleaf and wiregrass ecosystems. They depend upon the transformation fire brings–first alight with flame and then, darkness.
Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on,
and we are left with the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end
because it is.
(Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening)
As I look across saltwater marshes in seasonal slumber—timeless transformation–I cannot imagine being anywhere else on this dark, gray morning on the eve of the winter solstice.
In the quiet dark, I am mindful of the necessity of letting go in life. It takes time, transformation does, time to awaken to the light of a life yet to come, time to welcome the world anew.
Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.
The solstice seasonal slumber reminds me to quiet myself, to observe the dark that is as much a part of this festive season as is the light. In the stillness of the dark, the light swirls.
On the marshes of St. Mark’s on the eve of this winter solstice, I let a life lived end as a life I have not begins. Each ending is yet a beginning, a time for slumber in anticipation of awakening anew.
In keeping with the light and dark of the season, regular blog posts will return in 2015.