The Dark Solstice of 2020

December 20, 2020, 1:23 PM · The winter solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year - always has fascinated me.

For much of our species' time on Earth, humans feared that the days would shorten until the sun simply vanished, leaving us to dwell in a cold, dark world of naked trees and dormant crops.

winter solstice

In 2020, the pending arrival of the year's longest night seems to be coinciding with what doctors and politicians are calling a "dark winter" of disease, with coronavirus cases and COVID deaths mounting exponentially, surpassing even the worst expectations.

Has "normal" life vanished forever?

Actually, the light is right around the corner. Vaccinations have just begun, bringing hope for health and normality in the future.

But as with the sunny days of summer, it will take some time for our societal well-being to truly return. The day after the solstice, after all, is still the second-darkest day of the year. We still have to get through a good many more dark days.

So how will we cope? What do we humans do, when the darkness is closing in? When resources grow scarce? When anxiety looms?

The traditions of this season can give us a few ideas. Looking at these traditions, it's obvious that we need to tap into our imagination, find beauty in our surroundings, seek connection and discover our own resourcefulness.

Human imagination has given us so much art, imagery, story and music for this season. In order to survive a "dark winter," it's important to keep imagination alive: read books, create things, listen to music you love, find new music, seek out visual art.

Find beauty in your surroundings - it does not cost anything to stop to look at the sunset or appreciate how the stars shine brighter when the sky is darker. I love that during this time of year, we celebrate the tree that stays green through the dark and cold of winter. Find those things around you that are "staying green" - that are still thriving.

Foster your personal environment in the small ways that you can - surround yourself with images and objects that feel hopeful, lively and healthy. Make order for yourself; organize something small and see how it feels. Clean your living space - it's amazing how much that can help.

Remember that one does not plow the field in the dead of winter. So don't waste time agonizing over opportunities that are not currently available, work that is not possible, or activities that can't happen right now. Do what you can do, within the current limitations. Look for the subtle opportunities that offer themselves, even if they seem small or irrelevant to your larger goals. Be open to those long-dormant parts of yourself that might be awakened by trying something different.

And stay connected, But find safe ways to connect with your own family and friends -- via phone, via Zoom, via old-fashioned letter-writing. And stay connected with your community, where others may be suffering acutely. Are you in a position to help another person in need? Consider calling that distant friend who is alone. Or bringing food to someone. Or participating in a charitable effort to help people with basic needs like food and clothing.

In the coming months, it will be very important for every human being on the planet to behave responsibly, to stop a virus that spreads like wildfire and easily overwhelms our health resources. So wear your mask everywhere. Distance. Limit your social gatherings. Don't spread this disease to grocery store workers, caretakers, or your own friends and relatives. Be a responsible citizen in this fight, so we can truly find a return to the light.

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December 20, 2020 at 11:50 PM · Laurie:

Thank you for such an eloquent perspective on how today's world is challenging all of us. And thank you for helping us to remember that in this most challenging and difficult of times, we all have the freedom and the opportunity to find meaning and focus for our thoughts, feelings, activities, relationships, and perhaps (yes) our wonderful art.

Bless you,


December 21, 2020 at 12:54 AM · Thanks Laurie, Great things to think about! I'm starting to wonder if the rare appearance of the "Christmas Star" on the darkest night has a reason. A symbol of hope, maybe?

December 21, 2020 at 06:48 AM · Thank you for your still small voice of calm. Your message comes across firmly through the darkness.

December 21, 2020 at 07:33 AM · I've also always been fascinated by both the winter and the summer solstice. It is a reminder that we are a part of a much bigger entity - the universe.

It brings to my mind also the last scene of "The Grinch" with Jim Carrey, where you see that the whole story of the film was situated on a snowflake, among the billions of others in a snowstorm.

December 22, 2020 at 08:35 PM · Most importantly at this time: don't panic. All too often in times like these, people will lash out blindly, or pick a scapegoat, and act in ways that only make matters worse. The consequences are all around us.

It's time to stop, think, and act in ways that will benefit us all in the long run - not succumb to short-term, self-centered thinking.

We've done it before - we can do it again.

Stay home, stay safe, find joy and spread it in whatever ways you can. Catch up on those things around you that you never could find time to do. (Maybe, while watching the Peanuts Christmas special, I'll finally finish that two-mandolin arrangement of Linus and Lucy that I've been thinking about for some time.) And dream about all the music we'll be able to make once we can gather together again...

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