Winter solstice is but a few days away. These are literally the darkest days of the year considering they offer the fewest hours of sunlight. An undeniable tension exists this time of year between the quiet retreat of nature and the reactionary bustle of culture. Innately, I suspect most feel an instinct to slow down, hole up, and burrow in. The benefit of such is the opportunity to reflect, meditate, and take stock of the finished business of warmer and busier seasons. In an over-mediated culture that often seeks to distract us by any means necessary, such a time can be depressing for many and almost traumatic for some. Ours in not a culture that has crafted, or at least widely celebrated, many rituals to embrace such experiences. With most workplaces indoors, often in fluorescent-lit office parks, factories, or retail stores, the literal lack of sunlight on skin seems to obviously affect our moods for the worse, as well. I suppose it's no wonder that the largest celebratory rituals we do observe religiously, without fail - Thanksgiving and Christmas - reach their peak just after the solstice (I use "religiously" in the euphemistic rather than the denotative here despite the irony.) I suppose we crave the warmth of family and friends, though I would also wager many ride the wave of Holiday Season © shopping, parties, and planning to keep the inertia of distraction in place. Because of the expectations to be with family during the holidays, we are also forced to negotiate our "source," our beginnings.
Many relish this time to re-connect with their source, to return to the wellspring of love and support that many families provide. Others have more difficult negotiations, lingering tensions, and painful emotional ties to overcome. I suppose most families, comprised of fallible human beings, have a combination of all of the above somewhere along the line. Regardless, the relationship between these short, dark days seemingly readymade for reflection and introspection, combined with a season whereby one must consider their origins, including how and whether to reconnect with family, have the potential for both deeply sustaining warmth and arcs of volatility. These are the darkest days of the year. Hopefully, most of us can enjoy the radiant glow of a smoldering fire by the hearth without also burning down the house.