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When the night has ended and the day has begun

Winter is potentially lonely, painful, and inevitable. The dark, long days of December are characterized by many as a time when we are held captive by blasting winds and slippery terrain.

On the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year (my birthday) we celebrate the first turn from winter toward spring, and we are invited to recognize and honor the beauty of winter. 

On December 21, 2019, at the Tri-Faith event From Darkness to Light: A Winter Solstice Event, we stood together on Abraham’s Bridge and I said, “Winter teaches us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal.” And in reflecting, I’ve come to think of our pandemic world as one vast, communal experience of wintering. 

In her book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, Katherine May sees winter as a season in nature, but also a season in life: 

“Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible. Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential.”

As I try to prevent a hardening of my being, I have more questions than answers:

  • What do I need to do to take care of myself in this vulnerable state? 
  • Who do I want to be on the other side of this wintering of the pandemic?

At the Tri-Faith solstice event in 2019 I shared, “We would do well to remember there would be no light without darkness, and no darkness without light.” 

Take a chance tonight and look at the darkness of the night sky, and feel your connection to the millions of people who have seen that same sky. May suggests:

“Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.”

What if this darkness is our time of great transition? What if we advance this metaphor and consider the darkness to be a preparation for a new beginning; a birth if you will.  

While I, like you, have experienced some tough times in the past two years, there are countless silver linings. This simple and clear lesson in Brené Brown’s Atlas of Heart rings true:

“Don’t look away. Don’t look down.
Don’t pretend not to see hurt.
Look people in the eye.
Even when their pain is overwhelming.
And when you’re hurting and in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye.
We need to know we’re not alone — especially when we’re hurting.”

The Rabbis teach, “When you look into the face of the person who is beside you and you can see that that person is your brother or your sister when you can recognize that person as a friend, then, finally, the night has ended and the day has begun.”

May it be so.

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