The longest night of the year is the best time to contemplate what it means to stand still. That is the definition of solstice: a time when even the mighty sun (sol) pauses (sistere) in the sky. You’d think we’d take the hint.
In winter, all living things slow down to conserve energy for more fruitful months. Burrowing animals remain underground. Bears hibernate. Seeds fall into a state of quiescence.
We can brood over the darkness, shake our fists at the freezing rain—or we can follow Nature’s lead. We can revel in the slowing of the sap inside our veins, a kinship humans hold with trees. We can enjoy the thickness of our heartbeats, feel the pull of warmth from our extremities into our bones and core. We can curl up near a fire and draw the tranquility of repose over our bodies like a thick blanket, inhaling the heady herbaceous aroma of rosemary and thyme baking in the oven.
Life in America does not teach us how to be slow with intention. Americans associate slow with lazy. We have forgotten that Homo sapiens is a part of Nature rather than above it, that our biorhythms are governed by the same phenomena as every other species of flora and fauna. Bears and pine trees hold no shame about seasonal dormancy. Why do we?
Let’s watch the sunset fall to purple at four in the afternoon.
Let’s sleep past the dim of eight a.m. without guilt.
Let’s light candles to remind ourselves of the increasing daylight that waits on the other side of today. Not in a rush to change, but to appreciate the juxtaposition: the degradation of summer with the frozen quiet of winter. It is not only the end of the year, but the end of a decade. Only a few precious hours of darkness left to balance these forces, one in each hand, life and death.
Rather than rush to cross off one more task from our lists, what if we stopped? What if we allowed ourselves to sink into this moment? What if we silenced our phones, stopped checking the news, and paused to listen to the music of our breath rising and falling, the miracle of our heart beating?
What if we considered this seasonal dormancy, these moments of liquid ebony, as a time of focus rather than sloth to be shaken off? Time to laugh, to recharge, to concentrate the seedling potential we hold deep inside… the small, everyday magic that the luxury of living allows us to overlook.
Happy Solstice, y’all.