‘Tis the holidays, and the end of the academic term. One must get past the end of the semester before settling into, abet briefly, the season of darkness and lights. This afternoon darkness fell by 4:30.
This is, in Christian influenced countries, a time of anticipation. Advent is both a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus, and for the return of the sun. It presages the long, anxious wait for spring.
Here in Vermont, we are still awaiting snow. The absence of cold and snow is unsettling, as our ecosystems and cultures rely on them to maintain balance and harmony. Here, winter is a way of life, dreaded and embraced in turn.
It seems everywhere we go the topic of weather, or, rather, the absence of weather is dominant, trumping all else. One catches snippets of conversations at church, concerts, or simply shopping. There is a worried buzz about the prolonged warmth, a tense concern about what this might mean. Even those who profess a preference for warmth seem increasingly concerned.
There is another concern: the second half of El Nino winters can be very harsh, the snow returning via a seemingly endless series of major storms. There may also be a heightened incidence of ice storms, events which can overwhelm our usual meteorological nonchalance, as everything skids to a halt, sometimes for several days.
But for now, the warmth persists, lights appear on lawns, houses, and in windows, and people gather to wish one another well at the holidays. Our tree has been up for a week and is mostly decorated, and our windows and porch are ablaze in light. We’ve finished most of our holiday shopping, and yesterday afternoon we lit the first Hanukkah candle with our granddaughter, as she wanted to celebrate with us before going home. Tonight we will light two.
Last evening we attended a carol sing, and I was reminded that as I age, I find less pleasure in many of the standard carols. I struggle with references to lords and kings, an emphasis on power and dominance, and a clear preference for boy children over girls. Increasingly, many of the old carols seem far removed from my world. Yet, there are still carols, mostly ones less well known, that touch me deeply, and for them I remain grateful.
So we slowly match our pace to the midwinter holidays. For the moment this means we focus on the many work related tasks that must be completed before we can truly settle into the early darkness, socializing, and the rich stories that mark the passage of the old year in the northern latitudes.
What do you hold dear at this sacred time, and what rituals and practices aid you in settling into the deep dreaming?
18 thoughts on “Waiting”
The weather is worrying, I agree Michael and have also thought about the rest of this winter.
Good post as usual 🙂
I like to sit indoor with candlelights, when the cold and darkness are knocking on the door.
Irene, The weather remains more that of early to mid-November. There is no snow, and little cold. Perhaps that will change after next week, when we are likely to have exceptional warmth for Christmas Day. One can only hope so.
At this time of year my focus tends to be of ‘the light in the darkness’, which I think is relevant for people who describe themselves as either Christian or pagan.
I’m with you about the carols: kings and rule are a turn off for me. I still love Silent Night-sung slow and softly, with it’s connection to World War One, and therefore all wars.
The light in the darkness, the desire for peace.
Andy, I have continued to love the old, old carols, the one’s that seem to travel back through the history of Europe and the Americas. We have many recordings of Medieval carols, song that so touches us across the centuries. Maybe the precariousness of life back then is what deepens the feeling in those carols. Anyway, this season we have not been able to attend any concerts, really. Concerts are usually a significant part of our holidays. Perhaps this last weekend will offer us a moment.
This is a beautiful post. May your holidays be Merry & Bright. And may the land be protected and healed in the coming months. I celebrate the Winter Solstice/Yule & Christmas. I always bake sun cookies at Winter Solstice and I like baking with recipes given to me by family and friends.
Brighid, You of the name so associated with this time of turning year, thank you. I love the idea of cookies. Perhaps, now that grades are in, we will borrow our granddaughter and bake. Do you have a great family recipe to share?
Michael, I just saw this. Yes! I would love to share. I will post one tomorrow.
Great! Thank you!
Michael Watson M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC, JourneyWorks 1205 North Avenue Burlington Vermont 05408 802-860-6203
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A time of darkness and light…beautifully put as always 😊 I love the slowing down and drawing inwards which this time of year offers, scattered between the social whirl of gatherings. Lovely contrasts between silence and sound, between stillness and motion…and a time to think and reflect in the soft dark shadows of the year which is passing✨
Dear Green, I have been focused on the many tasks that accompany the end of the term, and have found turning fully to the dark and deep to be difficult. Now I am caught up, I think, and can feel myself settling into the mystery of the moment. Our weather has been quite odd, with essentially no snow and little cold. Perchance that will also turn with the end of the year. This place that is shaped by cold and dark so desperately needs both. May the season touch you as deeply as you wish.
many thanks Michael, and our winter has also had no cold teeth in it yet!
Last winter was long and cold. It is still relatively warm here by comparison, and I am thankful for that. I am sure the cold is right around the corner soon to come blasting in.
HI Mary, this is, I believe, our 7th month in a row of record heat. A sense of alarm is spreading, although there are indications we will fall into the deep freeze after next week. If so, it will take a lot of getting used to. As of now, we are still in early November….
Hey there. Long time no see. Yes, I have similar feelings about Christmas songs. I try and go for the more thoughtful ones that remind us about how lucky we are, and our obligations to others less fortunate. John Lennon’s So This is Christmas, or punk rock covers that poke fun at the whole Christmas tradition are always a favorite for me. Otherwise, I have been busy doing some fairly harrowing shadow work recently, but spiritually, emotionally and intellectually I’m in a much better place because of it. The emergent fruits of which can be seen in this latest post of mine. I would be honored if you would take a look at it. Warmest regards for the silly season to you and your loved ones. Great to hear from you!
Hi Leeby Geeby, I’ve been navigating the end of the term, always an interesting time. Today I have completed all my paperwork, and have finally begun to turn towards the Holiday, a time I love. As to the shadow work, I wish you well, and much compassion towards yourself. May the Holiday time bring you creativity and peace.
Many thanks. Great to hear from you. All the best for the Christmas and New Years Season to you and your kin.
After four years of drought, we are finally getting snow and rain…so needed.
Advent is my favorite liturgical season as I view waiting to be such a sacred aspect of spirituality. We are not full-filled beings, we always want more and I see the answer in the divine. My husband and I meet nightly (with the 2 dogs!) and light the candles on our Advent Wreath. Then I read a small meditation from a publication we receive at church–based on a scripture reading and we share a few moments of silence.
This was a wonderful post, Michael, and I pray you will receive just the right amount of precip for your needs.
Dear Victoria, Thank you for this marvelous comment. I love the images of you and your husband, and the dogs, lighting the candles together! Jennie and I were just noting that Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve next year! I imagine our house will be filled with candles and light! We will hold the dark close, even as we celebrate with community and friends. We will tell the ancient stories of hope and peace, and seek justice. We will open our hearts to joy. Even now, as we settle into the twelve days of Christmas, we hold open the door to the child.
Yes, may we all receive just the right amount of water. May the mountains hold the water till it is needed. May drought be put aside, or averted. May your Holidays continue to bring closeness, and the returning of the light.