Archives for posts with tag: Winter Solstice

I spent some minutes marveling as my brain lied to me about the lovely dawn beyond the window, hinted at through closed blinds. Looks like it’s going to be a warm, late spring day… but… it’s the Winter Solstice, so… no. I sit, drink coffee, and contemplate how easily I am fooled by a trick of light – and lighting. I recently changed the bulb out there on the stoop, and the light is a different color. I even know this. I am aware of it… and yet… it definitely looks like a pearly dawn, of the sort that precedes, perhaps, a slightly humid, warm-ish sort of clear day… maybe on the coast somewhere, or in the desert. I can see that. I can know it is not a real thing, and only a trick my brain and senses are playing on me.

I open the blinds, after a time, to see what is really beyond the window, in the way of morning light. Only the chill steely blue-gray of winter dawn, well before sunrise. Through open blinds, the porch light is just a porch light, perhaps a somewhat peculiar choice of bulb, but certainly nothing any stranger than that. What special tools these brain things are. lol 😀

A lot of our experience is like that; built on assumptions, sensations, perceptions, corrected through fact-checking, “double-checking” experiences, verifying what isn’t clear, and allowing ourselves to adapt to what we have learned, to hold a more accurate picture of the world in our mind’s eye. Not everyone is good at it. Yep, one more thing that takes some practice. 😀

When was the last time you over-reacted to something? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to just… not? To see things accurately, hear what is being shared with you with a clear understanding, to respond to the world – and your relationships – always in a wholly appropriate way? It’s definitely a goal, for me. I work at it every day. Every day, I see some tiny improvements. Every day I see room for more improvements. Every day I practice. That first reaction to an experience is nearly always driven by “unseen forces”; implicit values, assumptions, disappointed expectations, misunderstandings, miscommunications, unexpressed needs, unstated boundaries, physical comfort (or lack of it), emotional state of being in the moment, the fucking weather… the list is pretty long. I continue to practice being accepting of my first reaction to things, but not allowing that reaction to lead my decision-making, or ideally even also preventing it from coloring whatever the fuck is going to come pouring forth from my face holes as a stream-of-consciousness rant of some sort. I definitely also really have to work at this; however much I’d like it to feel (and become) quite natural, I very much have to practice… very much. lol So human.

That fancy brain is just trying to help; it’s so much faster to put reactions on our internal “automation” – that’s what makes them “reactions” rather than responses (measured, well-considered, thoughtful, appropriate). It’s sort of a bother that our reactions are not all that helpful, and are often just entirely incorrect – they are definitely faster than our ability to reason clearly.  Emotions generally get to the party ahead of our ability to reason clearly. It would be more efficient to fall back on our reactions in the moment, but honestly, they are often only useful in emergency situations – the rest of the time it is definitely worth slowing the fuck down and giving every-damned-thing a second thought.

…On second thought…

(You knew that was coming, right?)

…We’re also not actually very astute about what, specifically, in this modern century of humanity, actually amounts to an “emergency”. We get seriously jacked up about the dumbest shit. TV shows. Petty resentments. Who ate the last treat. Territorial disputes. Money. In a world literally covered in resources, more than adequate for everyone, we’re all very busy fighting over crumbs while a handful of dragons sit on hoarded wealth… and we distract ourselves from all manner of things that really matter a great deal – by reacting to shit that does not. (So human) We seem, often, largely incapable of honest collaboration and community, prone to viewing all of life’s challenges as tiny zero sum adventures in greed, “being right”, or “winning”.

What matters most? (The question does not go away, simply because answering it is uncomfortable.)

Today is the Solstice. The longest night. A celebration (for me) of contemplation, of wonder, of silence in our own personal darkness – and of waking up to the light.

A wintry sunrise is imminent. The dawn is a bleak pale gray with a hint of blue. The traffic on the road outside reminds me that I am not having to join them on the race to beat the clock to the office this morning. I take my time with my coffee, considering my experience and my plan for the day, thinking ahead to sharing the holiday with my Traveling Partner.

It’s been a peculiar year, and much has changed. I’ve made some interesting new friends. Broadened my social network both geographically, and in the variety of new human beings in my experience. I’ve ended some relationships – including one that reasonably ought not have been given another chance at all – and moved on with my life. There’s been some turmoil, some drama, and some major headaches (both literal and figurative). The world has strained with the pain of watching civilization heave, and perhaps fall… no way to know, quite yet. This moment? Right now? I’m okay. There aren’t a lot of extras. It won’t be a lavish holiday. I have what I need, though, and that’s enough. 🙂

I welcome the Solstice this year, as a season of change, and of reflection, and a time of vision. It’s definitely time to begin again.

 

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. 😀