We are entering into a quiet time, the winter solstice, when the northern part of the world has its longest night of the year. A time of deep sleep and darkness, of underground burrowing and profound stillness. Of spare landscapes and bare branches and the thin light of a sun setting well before dinner. The stillness and cold are so complete, we sometimes are a little afraid of it, so we brighten the corners and laugh loudly and heap our tables with grand, life-affirming, belly-warming feasts.We like to make a lot of noise and jingle-jangle this time of year, hanging strings of lights that twinkle and sparkle, chasing away the cold with layers of warm woolies and a blaze in the fireplace. Our ovens are cranked high and busy around the clock, transforming sugar and butter into cookies and glazing the roast with a deep caramel crust. We gather in large groups to cheer and celebrate and drink warming beverages and stumble shrieking into snow drifts to flail about making snow angles and merry mayhem.
We wander in the winter market, amongst the piles of nuts, citrus, apples, winter squash and the sweet, frost-kissed bunches of kale. Round fat root vegetables that have stored up their sugars lay in heaps on tables as farmers in wool hats and gloves stomp their feet to keep warm. Honey glows in jars lined up on the table like so many suns blazing against the grey chilly morning. All of this is wonderful, all of this is warm and vivid and necessary.
But remember, too, that this is also the time of hush and stillness. That we can slow down or even stop completely and let that stillness sink in and bring us strength and encouragement. A few minutes alone in the kitchen, pausing at the sink to watch the late afternoon shadows. The moment just before going upstairs to bed when the household is asleep and you can almost touch the silence. Looking up from digging the last of the potatoes in the garden and following the flight of a bird overhead. All the doing and scheming and thinking and planning is set aside and the simple quietness of the day, strong and unadorned, rises up to meet us. Then, for a little while at least, all is calm and all is bright.
Have a warm and happy holiday!
In Which I Pretty Much Say the Same Thing Every December:
Weekend Meditation: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Weekend Meditations: Merry and Bright
Weekend Meditation: Resting in the Dark
(Image: Quattro Stagioni: Inverno (1993-5) by Cy Twombly)