In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, a time of deep rest that is sacred to all living things and necessary to life. As a culture, we push against this darkness with celebration and light, busyness and bustle. This is fine, essential even, but there is wisdom to be discovered in the slumbering dark, in allowing the brightness to fade and the quiet to prevail.
The natural world is resting, the seeds and roots of our future harvest are chilled and dormant, alive but not actively growing. For humans, while it's rare to be as still and silent as a dormant seed in winter, it is possible to experience deep quietness.
A walk in the woods has moments of stillness, but it's also conceivable to find it on a crowded bus or in a busy market. It can be as simple as pausing in the middle of a busy moment, or finding the time to stop and sit quietly for a few minutes. This quiet waiting is often mistaken as passivity but it's not always that simplistic. Stillness can be quite dynamic and powerful if we engage with it wholeheartedly and without agenda.
Equally important, from stillness, we rise into activity. In the kitchen, we engage in the preparations for the feast, surrounded by the rich, complex flavors of winter foods. The kitchen is full of the sound of chopping knives and sizzling onions. The air is scented with the warm spice of cinnamon, clove, cardamon. There are nuts to be ground, meats to roast, and winter fruits to pile into a big bowl: oranges and all citrus, pomegranates, persimmons, dates. The oven is put to constant use, it's warmth steaming up the windows and spilling out into the rest of the house.
The smells of the feast mingle with the scent of piney boughs, beeswax candles, peppermint and the perfumes of visiting friends and relatives. It's a time to pause for a moment, take stock and appreciate: we are sheltered, well-fed and loved. We are blessed.
(Image: Florence Caplow)