I took a long walk on the Winter Solstice again this year. Most years I have, it definitely counts as a ‘ritual’. This year I took a camera – and I think it is the first year I have taken pictures along my Solstice journey.

Last year’s Solstice walk was spent fretting aimless and sorrowfully, mostly about my brain injury – an event something like 30 years in the past, but last year it was new information for me. I was also deeply, and profoundly struck by the heinous gang rape in Delhi just days before – an event so powerfully traumatizing that the whole world paused to take notice, and rape became an everyday topic of conversation for a lot of people. My post-traumatic stress symptoms had flared up, and my sense of self, and all the bits and pieces that are ‘who I am’ started to unravel. It was a painful and very lonely time in my life; even surrounded by people who love me, I felt isolated and alone.   For me, on that Solstice, it was simply an uncomfortable walk ruminating fretfully and unproductively. I did not write in my journal. I hadn’t started my blog. I was silent; words had failed me. 

This year’s Solstice walk was very different. I eagerly ventured forth, feeling hopeful, content, and satisfied to take my time with my journey. I brought my camera, a smile, and a serene heart.  I went to a favorite small forest near where I live. I grinned happily at a little girl in the parking lot who noticed me removing my shoes.  I take my walk bare footed (or for as much of the journey as I can, weather and fitness permitting), it’s been my practice as long as I can recall, and has a certain sacred feeling to it, for me. 

I walked about 5 miles. 5 miles of soft winter sunlight. 5 miles of sodden mossy paths dripping small sparkling gems of recent rainfall from leaf tips and branches. 5 miles of birdsong and frogs peeping. 5 miles of oak, maple, and pine. 5 miles of fern and lichen. 5 miles of squirrels playfully managing their affairs. 5 miles of sweet-scented breezes, and the regular beat of my own footsteps.  I walked 5 miles and managed a handful of pictures, a couple of hours of quiet observation, and a few minutes of meditation wrapped in forest.  I’d share all of it, if I could. As it is, I can really only share the pictures, and some handful of words that don’t really do the experience justice. 

I enter the forest, shortly before noon.

I enter the forest, shortly before noon.

The path as metaphor was a common theme.

The path as metaphor was a common theme.

Beautiful details, up close.

Beautiful details, up close.

So much dripping moss.

So much dripping moss.

Ferns nestled between tree trunks.

Ferns nestled between tree trunks.

Gazing skyward.

Gazing skyward.

A miniature world.

A miniature world.

'The distance' is trees. I consider the living depth of field.

‘The distance’ is trees. I consider the living depth of field.

A lot of lichen, visible in all directions.

A lot of lichen, visible in all directions.

Several sorts of lichen in this forest.

Several sorts of lichen in this forest.

A soggy path lit by soft winter light.

A soggy path lit by soft winter light.

Sun filtering through the trees.

Sun filtering through the trees.

Near to noon, and at the edge of the forest.

Near to noon, and at the edge of the forest.

The noon solstice sun.

The noon solstice sun.

5 miles is a lot of path...

5 miles is a lot of path…

...more to see around every bend...

…more to see around every bend…

There are ferns.

There are ferns.

So many ferns.

So many ferns.

A mossy tree hung with pine needles.

A mossy tree hung with pine needles.

A little festive...

A little festive…

More paths to walk.

More paths to walk.

Some paths are darker.

Some paths are darker.

Small wonders.

Small wonders.

...And more ferns.

…And more ferns.

More paths, and I keep walking.

More paths, and I keep walking.

The hustle and noise of humans being is silent here.

The hustle and noise of humans being is silent here.

Crossing a creek.

Crossing a creek.

There are, of course, more ferns.

There are, of course, more ferns.

The sun breaks through the trees, reminding me time is passing.

The sun breaks through the trees, reminding me time is passing.

A spider's hammock.

A spider’s hammock.

Up close, sparkling rain drops like jewels.

Up close, sparkling rain drops like jewels.

Reflected sky, and a metaphor for reflection.

Reflected sky, and a metaphor for reflection.

My companion while I meditate.

My companion while I meditate.

The end of the journey.

The end of the journey.

By 2 pm the sun was already beginning to drop lower in the sky.  I finished my walk with a smile, and a few deep breaths, and returned home to love and holiday spirit, home and hearth, and mindful service. 😀