It is December and the nights are long, the mornings are dark, and the sun is low on the horizon. In fact, the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, is just a few (long) nights away on December 21st. While the tone and description of my morning ritual may suggest that I do not necessarily enjoy this time of year, it is actually one of my favorites. The Winter Solstice is part of a natural, annual cycle that has been occurring on our planet every year for billions of years. It has been significant to nearly every civilization throughout history and around the world. Observance of the Winter Solstice has been a time of celebration and ritual, a time for seed sowing, an important time for animal husbandry, a signal to ration food for the deep winter, and a time to enjoy family in the warmth of the home. Additionally, the Solstice governs cycles that occur throughout the natural world.
As a child, this time of year was significant to me because it meant Christmas, winter break from school, and snow (remember when the winters were covered with snow?). But as an adult, the Winter Solstice has become increasingly significant. It is a time of transition, of hope and renewal. Also, paying attention to the universal natural cycles makes me feel more connected to the natural world. The Winter Solstice is both the precursor to deep winter and a signal of the return of longer days and brighter mornings.
I am certainly amongst those who celebrate the return of the light. This is one of the reasons why Urban Ecology Center’s annual Candlelight Walk has become one of my favorite events of the year. It is an opportunity for the community to celebrate the Winter Solstice by getting outside in the dark of night. If you have not spent much time outside at night in a forest, I invite you to try it – perhaps at the Candlelight Walk. It is pretty magical. Luminaries are set up along a path in Riverside Park. Groups are led down the candlelit path by a guide who periodically stops to share poems of the season. It is quiet, gentle, beautiful, and sweet. The last stop is inside the Center where it is anything but quiet. The room is filled with live music by Pebble Creek Crossing and people taking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company around the fire. Hot cider, tea, and bakery is served (thank you, Alterra!).
The Winter Solstice only happens one time a year. Please come walk with us and celebrate with us! Bring your friends and family- all will enjoy this special evening. The Candlelight Walk is on Saturday, December 15 from 7-9:00pm at the Riverside Park branch. Walks leave every 15-20 minutes and last for about 30 minutes. Dress for the weather and for walking along paths in the park. Music and refreshments will be available the entire time.
Here are two of the poems/quotes to whet your palette. I hope to see you there!
"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour."
~ John Boswell
"Turn down the noise. Reduce the speed. Be like the somnolent bears, or those other animals that slow down and almost die in the cold season. Let it be the way it is. The magic is there in its power."
~ Henry Mitchell