Thursday, December 22 is Winter Solstice: the shortest span of daylight hours and the longest night of the year. In my neck of the woods, this means “The sun is above the horizon for approximately 9 hours, 26 minutes. Sunrise occurs at 7:24 a.m. and sunset at 4:50 p.m.”
On this day with more than 15 hours of darkness, perhaps Paul Simon offers us the most lyrical invitation for how we might begin to allow ourselves to savor a Soulful Solstice. Simon challenges us to sing,
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
I invite you to give yourself permission to pause and savor this modern classic as if you are hearing it for this first time this Solstice. Allow yourself to be surprised by what parts of this song — the lyrics, the tonality, or any other aspect — most resonate with you, either positively or negatively:
After listening, take some time to reflect or journal if you feel so led.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat also have some great Solstice resources over at the Spirituality & Practice website. A few highlights:
- John Matthews writes, “The Solstice is a time of quietude, of firelight…when seeds germinate in the cold earth…. Rivers are stilled and the land lies waiting beneath a coverlet of snow. We watch the cold sunlight and the bright stars, maybe go for walks in the quiet land. . . . All around us the season seems to reach a standstill — a point of repose.”
- Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr challenge us to be mindful that, “The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime…. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you.”
- Give thanks for the darkness which is the yin to the yang of light. Think of how soothing darkness is when you are exhausted and want to take nap. Recall how irritated you were in a hotel or motel where you could not block out the bright lights from outside when you wanted to sleep.
A fuller context for each of these bullet-points as well as many more resources are free on their website.
Most all, on this day, you are invited to feel the Wheel of the Year turning. So, may you find a fire around which to gather, perhaps even fueled with a Yule Log. And may you and yours have a Happy Yuletide!
For Further Study
The Rev. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. candidate at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg).