Winter arrived early this year. Seven inches of heavy, wet, white fell like a weighted blanket on my November birthday. I typically love the first snowfall of the season, with the transformation from drab brown to feathery white, illuminating the darkness at night. But I wasn’t ready this year. The last big Minnesota snowfall was mid-April, when crocuses and tulips should have been rising out of bed. And I had just started walking again after a fifth major surgery and a broken foot, and I really wanted to rebuild some strength by climbing the hill every day. And now the icy undercoat makes it too risky for my fragile spine, which is rather like the decomposing fall leaves buried under the snow.

But I’m not settling in! My heart wants to be outside, my spirit lifted by the freshly painted view and snowflakes dissolving on my tongue, as if it were a child’s first snow. I expectantly watch the sidewalks, waiting for a clear path to revive both body and spirit.

As we approach the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, we feel the yin and yang of the season. Light yields to dark. The past informs the future. We celebrate with family and friends, yet miss others or feel alone. We carry on traditions while also creating (or adapting to) new experiences. By letting go and clearing away the old, we create space for the new. Yin and yang are symbiotic, not exclusive. Light and dark coexist. We just don’t always see it.

The longest day of darkness will usher in the sun. It’s predictable. And so, we retreat into the dark before emerging, once again, into the light.

In Standing at Water’s Edge, I share my struggle to find the light, any light, as we crawled through the dark tunnel of cancer treatment with our young son. I tried to envision a flicker of light in my solar plexus. I lit a candle in Notre Dame in Paris, praying for Brennan to get well. Back home, Brennan gave the headless horseman a candle for his head, “to help him find his way.” We searched for the light that would lead us out of the dark. Living in the dark is hard, but sometimes necessary. And, like grief, it can’t be rushed.

In Dark Nights of the Soul, Thomas Moore describes how honoring these dark moments can be healing and can lead to new understanding of life’s meaning. The purpose isn’t to move quickly through these dark places, he says, but to have a view of life that includes the darkness. As our eyes adjust to the dimness, we begin to see more.

There is a powerful energy in looking within and reflecting on our own renewal as we honor the season, the solstice, and the progression of one year to the next. Reflecting on the past helps us move forward to the future.

Blessings to you as you embrace the darkness, stand in the ground of your life, and find meaning and purpose in the coming new year. May the sun shine and clear you a path to wherever you are going.         ~ Janice