This coming Sunday, Dec 21, is the winter solstice. Below is an article I wrote last year sharing my solstice story.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
This coming Sunday, Dec. 21, is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It will also be the 36th birthday of our oldest daughter, Anne Elizabeth, and the 24th birthday of our youngest daughter, Mary Rose. (We have six daughters and no sons.)
The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol and sistere, which means ‘sun stands still’ because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the seasonal movement of the Sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction. Though it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, from each day here on, there will be a few more minutes of light with the lengthening of each day.
Working as a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City, Utah, I covered murderer, Gary Gilmore’s story and his subsequent execution, for which I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize at age 23.
Though I had professional success, spiritually, I was bankrupt.
Covering the Gilmore story put me in the company of other journalists that were much more sophisticated, calloused, and experienced, than I was. At 22, I was swimming in waters too deep and dark for my youth and naiveté. Both the story and the people I spent time with exposed me to the shadow and darkness in life.
I carelessly abandoned once deeply held values, made choices I would later regret, and engaged in behavior that took me on a path far away from my true self.
By the time my work on the story was over (it had lasted over six months) I turned down an opportunity to get a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York, and returned to the mundane stories I had previously been covering. I was deeply depressed, unfulfilled, and unsure of what to do with my life.
One day I received a phone call from my brother Rodney, 17 years, my elder, who lived with his wife, Jean, and their children in Vancouver, WA. His invitation was simple: “Come home.” And his counsel was direct, “I want you to take a leave of absence from your job, come up here, and just take some time to sort things out.” He told me he felt inspired to make this generous offer. (My parents had both died during my youth and my oldest brother’s and his wife served as surrogate parents for me.)
Within a week, I was packed and heading north on I-5.
I am part of a religious family whose Christian faith goes back generations. I take care in my writing to respect the individual spiritual paths and beliefs of my readers. I am more private about my specific spiritual leanings. Today, I choose to be a bit more transparent.
Soon after I was home, Rod encouraged me to come back to church, to get involved in its program for young adults. Reluctant and resistant, but wanting to respect my brother’s advice, I decided to open my heart to possibility.
The first activity I attended, I met my husband. (Of course, I didn’t know the importance Brian was going to have in my life that night.) And I felt more comfortable at the activity than I had imagined. There was a diverse group of people who were friendly, funny, and willing to welcome me into their circle.
As I studied, pondered, and prayed, — and had a lot of fun, I found myself returning to the light and experiencing a spiritual reawakening. Meanwhile, Brian Allred became more and more interesting to me. His deep spirituality and commitment moved me. I was captured by his friendly nature. I loved his mind. The deal was sealed by how well he danced! In December I received a sweet little surprise, a Christmas card in the mail from him. Shortly after that he called and invited me to a New Year’s Eve dance.
That last dark night of December, we couldn’t stop dancing or talking. By the time we parted company at 3 a.m., I knew I had found my spiritual partner. He had the same experience and proposed three days later. We were married three months after that, and had our Annie nine months later.
I was a reluctant prospective mother. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But then I held my newborn baby, Annie in my arms, on Dec. 21, (the Solstice that year). Tears rolled down my cheeks as I gazed at her and something unexpected happened: I fell in love again.
I learned of the heart’s infinite capacity as each of our other five daughters arrived. When it was Mary Roses’ time, the last, she arrived early – on Annie’s birthday and the solstice. Rose was born at home, close to the Christmas tree, with her other sisters present (at their request.) Annie was the first to hold Rose.
The solstice has special significance in my life.
It is a deeply reflective time for me. During the winter solstice, the earth is tilted as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It is the longest night of the year. As a metaphor for my own journey, it is interesting to me that the seasonal movement of the sun’s path comes to a stop on the solstice before it reverses direction, with each day having more light. So long ago, I too reversed direction.
The solstice can be seen as a time of new beginnings. We all have times of walking through darkness and shadow. We can find our way to the light again. We discover the path again that leads back to what is true and right for each of us. We can integrate what is revealed and uncovered by our descent into darkness.
I feel a great celebratory significance of a season that marks a time when I had fully turned away from the dark path I was on, reclaimed my lost self, and returned to The Son.
I celebrate the magnificent wonder and beauty of the earth and the marvels of the heavens. I rejoice at the great gift I was given to return to my truth and find my spiritual partner on this earth. Becoming a mother, not only to Annie and Rose, the bookends of our group, but also to Maria, Amanda, Sarah, and Suzette, is one of the great joys of my life.
To be able to write and to integrate all my past experience into one great whole gives great purpose and meaning to my experience. This Sunday Dec. 21 will also be the second birthday of my “Creating a Life You Love” website. Of course I deliberately chose this day. It felt sacred to launch something so dear to my heart on that day, to begin another solstice journey.
Consider on this solstice, how you, dear reader, might welcome the return of the light into any shadows or darkness in your own life. Offer yourself the gift of your own curiosity and compassion as you explore. Be patient with a process that happens in small increments. Believe it is possible to change direction where needed. Discover your own solstice journey!