I have always had a tricky relationship with this season. It’s not easy to slow down, so when the short days and long nights nudge me into bed early, I get a little resentful. I know that I will eventually love the extra time for slow reflection and gentle appreciation that winter offers, it just feels like it takes me a little longer than the rest of the natural world to make the transition from fall to winter.
This year, I have noticed that this season, as the winter solstice nears, I am grateful for the pause and intention. I feel wrapped in a remembrance and honoring that feels full, reverent and nurturing.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years hold the anniversaries of the deaths of my father, grandfather, grandmother, and a family friend. These anniversaries are more than just notations on the calendar, they are memories of love and reflections of loss that come to me in waves of tender remembrance.
Last year at this time, I offered a workshop for people who, like myself, were holding new and uncomfortable feelings of grief and loss at the holidays. It is very unnerving to be surrounded by the season’s merry-making when your heart feels broken. At Inn Along the Way, I met with a small group of women to share stories, cry a few more tears, listen to holiday music and make ornaments. Honoring the lives of our loved ones with symbols of quiet beauty offered an anchor in that rocky holiday season.
This year, I feel different. I am holding my memories out in the light and really savoring them. In acceptance, the intellectual memories of those who have died have become distilled in body memories of our relationships. I hear and feel my Dad’s love, my grandmother’s delight, my grandfather’s steadiness, and our friend’s laughter. Though they are no longer living, this winter season is warmed and illuminated by their presence, woven into mine. Beyond boundaries of time and space, beyond life and death, we remain together.
I am grateful for this renewed perspective on the season of waning light.
May these long, dark pre-solstice days also offer you ample opportunity to feel the light of those who have blessed your life. In their absence, I hope you also feel their presence and, in your delight, celebrate your eternal love.
Barren branches of oak and maple
Reaching to the sky like old and crooked fingers.
Swollen with time and age, bent in angles and curves
holding memories and experiences of days passed long ago.
Youthful flexibility tempered by challenges and growth,
developing a rigidity accumulated from season to season.
Reaching upward and outward,
Beckoning to the sun and moon alike in honor to each passing day.
Reaching upward and outward,
Calling me to pay attention.
Notice the sky.
See the beauty in these twisted tendrils.
Celebrate the youth that has passed
and the age that has arrived.
Live this day.
Empty deciduous branches of winter,
Hold nothing but the weight of the sky,
the love of those crooked fingers,
remembrance of yesterday,
and joy of today.