Celebrate a birthday lately? Toast an anniversary? Binge through a deliriously bacchanalian reunion, crazy-drunk on high school memories?
Personal junctures to fete—perhaps even eulogize—these red letter occasions create hesitant moments within which we linger. And in this acknowledgement, sometimes with a royal wave, sometimes with a single finger, just what is it we are saluting? Of course, it’s the passage of time.
Thumbing our noses at its significance, we’ll don humorous hats. Or we’ll ignore it, pointedly and emphatically. We’ll indulge—or howl to the skies in a private, unrestricted rage. With glasses full or with a dissipating will, with a rare burst of unencumbered extroversion or simply by burying our heads deeper, deeper, deeper under our down-filled duvet than ever before, somehow we mark these occasions.
Why the fuss? (Or the fury?) It’s time envisioned as a line, I think.
Constructing an allegorical superhighway through our lives, celebratory moments are our rest stops, their linearity leading us in a single direction like the ultimate one-way street. We know where we’re going (that old saw, no one gets out of here alive!), we’re just not overly comfy with the speed at which we’re approaching our destination.
Points along this mortality line graph, our red letter days each conceal a small death, cupped like a secret under its jubilant skin. Whatever the greeting card reads, the waving banner of its subtext is: time has passed. In capitals.
Time. Has. Passed.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve glanced back anxiously, watching childhood fade, doors close. It’s pretty easy to bestow time with relentlessness—maybe even heartlessness—on its grim interminable march, and I wonder, have I missed an opportunity? Failed to take the right path?
Might I have…could I have…should I have?
Unlike these personal milestones, as individual as an autograph, the Winter Solstice is a communal celebration, a shared moment (in the Northern Hemisphere, this year it falls on December 21).
Dawn tarries more day by day, and between the accumulating darkness and the return of the light, a potent communal atmosphere builds. Shadows enfold us in their incremental drapery, and that feeling of being cheated by the waning daylight is mutual—especially in the north where I live.
Escaping the isolation of our lonely road and its scallop of occasions, the Solstice brings coalescence. And as it spirals around again and again, a vortex of robust authority, we reach out to one another for solidarity.
As the host of the sunrise yoga class, I’m privy to students’ first words as they wake. I speak “ugh” and acknowledge the throat-clearing “ahemmmah” as a recognizable greeting. I get a lot of weather reports “geeez, it’s cold!”, celestial notations “wow! did you see the moon?!” and to my admittedly somewhat uninspired (but completely genuine!) “how’re you doing?” countless responses of “too early to tell.”
But I also witness how tuned into the waning and the gaining of the light most people are. We sunrise yogis are the first to sense the changes, and as fall deepens to winter “it’s getting darker” slips quickly off chilly lips.
As my students converge in the studio’s early morning glow, I’m reminded that graceful as a seashell, time spins a whorl. The cyclical Solstice will open her door with lavish hospitality. “Come on in!” she’ll bellow, a genial, if imperious Auntie. Dinner’s on and there’s plenty—plenty—for everyone! Eat. Drink. Converse. Enjoy.
For this is a new year, and it is as individual as a fingerprint.
If over that proffered threshold I hop, buoyed by hope, my heart feather-light, I will encounter a future ablaze with potential. Well-buttressed by my scars, by my experience, if I abandon my uncomfortable baggage—a grudge’s heft, disappointments’ ballast—and carry only what I need for the golden days ahead, I can allow my eyes to take in the broadest of landscapes, focusing on the possibilities.
So may I suggest a Solstice celebration with friends? With a supportive arm resting on your shoulder, I find the dark days easier to bear. Empathy seems to generate its own heat. If you’re like me, when the light around us fades, we need to amp up our own power sources, reach out and shine our own lights a bit brighter: sprinkle on some glitter, pour out the sparkle, light the candles! Live the love.
Together we will witness our world emerging from the shadows into radiance once again. We’ll be ready.
Grateful for friends.
Grateful we had the time to rest and recoup.
To party and connect—with books, with tea and music and dreams, with one another.
Both grateful and gratefully, together we’ll be back in the light once again.
Shine on! Shine on! Shine on!
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Sub Editor: Sanja Cloete-Jones/ Editor: Bryonie Wise