Tonight marks Winter Solstice, the point in our year when we have the fewest daylight hours and the longest night of the year. There are so many world traditions in the Northern Hemisphere that mark this time of year with celebrations of light, and that’s no accident. This was a time of year when our ancestors were quite literally immersed in darkness, and the knowledge that the sun was about to begin it’s long, slow march back to them seems quite a fantastic thing to celebrate indeed.
Here in Oregon, we’re far enough north that we certainly feel the effects of the very short days (just 8 hours and 42 minutes between sunrise and sunset in Portland today!) and the long, cold nights. While I will never honestly say that this is my favorite time of year, it is a time that I have come to appreciate for it’s relative quiet and the opportunities it offers for stillness and contemplation.
The Earth around us is quiet and dormant right now. And yet, somewhere, way down deep in that cold soil, there is a tiny seed that soon will feel the ground around it begin to warm. By the time we’re marking the Summer Solstice six months from now, it will be well on it’s way to growing into a mighty plant that will bear fruit and eventually yield next year’s seeds. There is an obvious metaphor there, and it’s one that I try to invoke during Winter Break while I have a little bit of breathing room away from the daily hustle of work.
What is lying dormant in my work life right now? What tiny seed of an idea could be in full bloom by the time school lets out in June? When the ground thaws and the sun returns, what surprises will emerge from my students, and how can I nurture their fragile new growth? I don’t have much time or energy for these thoughts to take root or mature during other times of the year, so I am thankful for the seemingly endless cycle of dark nights and gray days that winter brings. They afford me the chance to think of all of the sleeping seeds in the ground around me, and what I can do to help them grow and thrive.