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The gift is the journey. The journey is beautiful. Live life with everything you've got, while you have the time.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Introspection at Winter Solstice
Home, home again
I like to be
here when I can
the daylight hours are at their shortest just before the winter solstice,
staying home is so underrated.
week friends and coworkers have been baffled by how tired they are, despite the
amount of sleep they’ve had. Some even acted as though
the fault was somehow their own. I reminded them that we’re coming up on the
shortest day of the year, and that we should be hibernating. We are mammals,
after all. And a good deal of mammals are laying low this time of year, staying
warm and cozy in their nests/caves, and sleeping a LOT.
the week before solstice, I always give myself permission to hibernate. This
means staying home after work where it’s warm and quiet, rather than venturing
out into the cold and dark. Permission to give my body the rest it’s inherently calling
for. To be still, and to reflect.
done this for quite a few years, ever since I ran with a New Agey crowd in the
90s and learned what a sacred time the solstice was in many ancient
cultures. I learned how to observe it as reverently as people do religious holidays. Native
Americans, in particular, taught me to use this time to “go inward,” sitting in quiet
introspection of the self—as a sort of inner renewal before the return of the
light…leading toward springtime and new beginnings.
remember when the song “Long December” came out (by Counting Crows), I marveled
at how its slow tempo, its lyrics, and the contemplative inflection of Adam
Duritz’s voice seemed to embody the feel of this. Especially this verse:
Drove up to
Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
At this year’s solstice, my introspection has me contemplating the meaning of home.
the first time since 2010, I will be able to go “home for the holidays.” Except
there is no home anymore. This past spring, my mother was moved into assisted
living and the house was slowly emptied and finally sold. There will be no more
gathering around the living room talking and laughing as one family unit. No
playing of the antique parlor grand Steinway and singing carols in three part
harmonies. No sitting around the dining room table with all three table leaves
put in, and no grandkids sledding down the hill in the big one-acre backyard.
“home” is no longer a physical place, but a memory. It is now only a hometown, a
region where I connect with friends and family.
In my life, Christmas has always been about family getting together. Talking, catching
up, laughing, singing and jamming, and LOTS of eating. And sadly, there hasn’t
been a Christmas like that (with everyone all together) in years. Many of my
siblings felt they had reached a time of life where they needed to stay put in
their own homes and host their own children and grandchildren. They would pay
the bigger family (and our mother) visits just after Christmas, or just before…but
they needed Christmas Day for their own immediate families.
year when I am home for the holidays, it will be very different, but
wonderful nonetheless. We have our 92-year-old mother talked into traveling an hour from
southwest Ohio to Northern Kentucky where I and three of my sisters (and their
families) will have Christmas together with her for the first time in a long time. And there will be talking,
catching up, singing, and lots of eating. Even if it's not everyone.
holiday visit, I will be savoring my mother like never before (my gut tells me
this might be her last Christmas—but that’s another story for another time), no
matter where we celebrate or where “home” is.
me, a truer definition of home is where a family
is. Even if the family is made up of just two people. In that respect, I am
still working toward creating a home of my own. For the last ten years, I have
been flitting back and forth from east to west to east and now northwest – and I feel
it’s time to be still and grow roots. To find that family. To build a new home.
I look forward to a new year, I’d like to end with this quote by Stephen
Levine. I know he was talking about death, but I think it can apply to the “unknown”
of the future.
"How do we allow ourselves to come into the unknown
with an open heartedness and courage that allows life its fullness?"
I know the answer to this question is the rigorous practice of maintaining
a present-moment awareness. Spending as much time out of my head (dwelling on
past or future) and in the now. Feeling the connection to all other beings and to what is going on right in front of me.
of life. I believe I have my focus phrase for 2015.