Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Telling Life: Solstice stories and the long dark

Today is the winter solstice, that time when the Northern hemisphere experiences the longest night and the shortest day of the year. Our shadows stretch out before us like spider-limbed adventurers and we shiver during the brief light and long night as we wait for the dawn. In the darkness we can gaze up at the night sky and search for our own shimmer in the sea of stars; we require the dark to see the vastness and the beauty that surrounds us.

I love this time of year. I struggle with it as well, because the external dark leads me into my own darkness, but the deep quiet and long-lasting starry skies give me a chance to think, to dream, to ask myself honest questions and to find new stories that the light might have chased away. This time of year draws me closer to the ones I love as we huddle around whatever may pass for a fire and keep each other company so we don't feel alone in the dark. Recent studies suggest that language and human culture likely evolved in large part around the communal fire, that we went from communicating the technical details of how to stay alive to the deeper and more connecting material of stories and shared thought, the building blocks of culture and community, around that fire as we waited for a meal to cook and for the night to pass. As I look more deeply within myself, the dark and the fire remind me that I am not alone.

For as long as I've been living independently, I rise at dawn on the winter solstice (no hardship, dawn is late) and light a 24-hour candle to burn through the brief day and lengthy night, so the sun will find her way back in the morning. I write, often telling myself stories of my own darkness and survival. I tell others stories of light in the darkness so we may be reminded that we need both, and that even in the dark all is not lost. I consider how we must know our shadow to know ourselves. I watch the sunset and eventually find my way to sleep, where I try to take note of my dreams. Rhiannon is said to visit us on winter solstice night and gift those who can remember with prophetic dreams. I don't always remember nor do they always make sense, but I try.

Tomorrow I will wake up and thank the sun for returning. I will thank my little candle for her hard work of keeping light in the world. And I will return to my normal life, perhaps a little richer for the time spent considering the dark.

One last thing, a story of light in the darkness so you will remember you aren't alone, a story I can share with you so we are reminded of dark and light. May your solstice bring you stories, the treasures of the dark and the light, and may your own self be more deeply known.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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