Winter Solstice 2020

It is the darkest season here in the northern hemisphere and the longest night of the year. And oh, what a year. We lurch towards the new year, barely allowing ourselves to hope it will slowly relax the stranglehold on our lives and our world. New political leadership here in the US and abroad, plus multiple vaccines likely to dilute Covid’s grip on all of us tempt us to hope and perhaps even to envision new days.

I do not intend to write yet another paragraph lamenting our woes, our weariness, and our dismay at our country. We all know what we are witnessing and living.

It is the Winter Solstice, a moment I have always loved and celebrated. I imagine it as the final compression of the entire year into a fist-sized ball, pregnant with concentrated energy and mysterious possibility. On Tuesday, December 22, it begins its own “big bang,” exploding into our stunted lives bearing gifts.

So, I ask each of you, and myself, which seed of new life will you and will I leap for? What is its trajectory, and how can we catch it as it hurtles into our world?

For this is the ancient myth, celebrated in every village, ever since we gathered around the first fire and sang our prayer to the darkness. This is the moment when the utter darkness gives birth to the fulsome light. We too have been compressed into the fearsome grip of pain and loss. We too have huddled around our dim fires. We barely remember our songs.

Our ancestors also knew that we must lean into our suffering and heart ache, to release our grief and its tears. This has been the deep cleanse of our denial and self-absorption, our pathetic lack of vision, and our emotional laziness. We must give voice to our lament and let our bodies speak their sorrow. Then we can heal. Then we can be restored to our open-hearted and generous selves. Then we can gather, share our dreams, and begin to build the communities we wish to live in.

Please choose one flash of light, one offering you will make this new year, to give form and shape to a new vision of how we might live well and kindly with each other. Bless the new year as she flings open the doors to new life, for each and all of us. Let your heart – fierce and gentle – lead you on your way. And may you be sturdy and well. With love, with love.

December 18, 2020


20 thoughts on “Winter Solstice 2020

  1. It’s good to read these words, dearest. Not feeling either sturdy or fierce, just etiolated and kind of broken, huddled under my blanket on the sofa here. I will look for what the one bright thing can be. Big love to you, bread love, soup love—

  2. This has been a big year for reflection and reset. Personally, one of the biggest new visions is looking at racism in America. George Floyd was a turing point and invoked a deep learning into the history of racism. It is a painful study but rich in human stories of resilience and resolve. I hope to continue to be an empathetic learner and advocate for racial justice.

  3. Wise and wonderful word, for sure. My spark will be helping my husband through chemotherapy the next six months. This will be a gentle flash filled with small kindness as I return all the goodness he has given me.

  4. Wise and wonderful word, for sure. My spark will be helping my husband through chemotherapy the next six months. This will be a gentle flash filled with small kindness as I return all the goodness he has given me.

  5. My one flash of light is going to be my book, Penny!
    Or rather, the simultaneous, double release of my book (on our building) as well as of the English translation of a book about the Tomatis method, written by some German colleagues.

  6. I thank you for your wise words Penny! So I quote Richard Rohr to emphasize your point; ” if you do not transform your pain, you will most assuredly transmit it. ” Blessings.

  7. Penny, this is Sue Taylor Stelling, from Wisconsin, your second cousin, many times removed.
    I just want you to know how very much I enjoy your Wisdom Teachings.
    I am archiving them for rereading over.
    I can imagine you living on Madeline Island, because my husband, Tom’s family
    is from Washburn and we made many trips to the island on our vacations – never in the winter, but I think that may be the loveliest season of all.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

    1. dear Sue…oh heavens, of course I know who you are!! You gave Mom such a gift, those last years of her life. She talked and talked about you. And how wonderful, we have such a Washburn connection. Does Tom still have family here, and do you still visit? Please do let me know, for I would so want for us to meet..please! Meanwhile, all good wishes to you both, love,

  8. Thank you Penny. Love the imagery of the compressed ball. I imagine the sponges released into the warm waters that emerge as amazing little animals and dreams. Happy Holidays to you!

  9. Thank you Penny. The seed of new life I wish to leap for is…breath. My puppy “Freya” has cancer and is having an amputation. I’m looking at surgery, at the same time, Dec 22, for a new knee. Lots of pain and fear to release, on a physical, personal level.
    I find breathing and watching for that first moment of the in breathe is a birth.

    Thank you for all you give this world.

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