It’s common wisdom that it’s difficult to rise early, here in the long dark mornings before the Winter Solstice. We become, it’s said, like cave bears who hibernate, sleeping away the dark. Our cozy blankets feel so warm and the mornings seem so cold; better to turn over and sleep a bit more.
But I’ve found that, while the short days between Samhain and Yule make me want to go to bed sooner than is my Summer wont, they also make me want to rise early and sink gratefully into longer-than-usual morning meditations. I may wrap up in a warm afghan and hold a steaming cup of cinnamon coffee, but Winter seems to call me to my altar, offering me a chance to sit in blessed dark and blessed silence as the light gradually fills my window.
Joanna Powell Colbert has been writing about blessed dark and blessed silence, as well:
I began to realize how much I needed silence and solitude at this time of year, through my observation of the natural world.
This year is a bittersweet one, as it is the first time in 18 years that Craig and I will not be hosting our annual Santa Lucia Party. I’m feeling both relief and sadness — relief because of having more spaciousness in my schedule instead of the intense party prep that normally takes up the first couple of weeks of December. Sadness because our home will not be graced by the good will and great cheer of so many loved ones and friends honoring the Return of the Light.
I have written elsewhere that the twin gifts of this season are solitude and community. We need both to satisfy our souls at the turning of the wheel.
This year I find myself reflecting on the shadow side of those qualities . . . the shadow side of solitude is loneliness, and the shadow side of community is overwhelm (especially for introverts).
And so I ask myself: What does my soul most need this Yuletide season?
The answer? I am craving small, intimate gatherings of just a few friends, with some good food & libations, sparkling conversation, and simple ceremony. I am hungry for dark nights & mornings lit by candles, hearth fires[,] and strings of sparkling lights. I want long walks on icy beaches, the croak of ravens, and the trill of winter wrens. I am yearning for sad, sweet melodies I’ve never heard before. I’m craving snow and luminarias set along a curving path to light the way.
What does your soul most need this Yuletide season?
My last few weeks have been pressure-cooker intense. I love my job, but suddenly there’s more on my plate than I can see my way clear to managing, just now. I’ve worked almost 15 hours a day, every day, including Thanksgiving, for the last 10 days and I’m not seeing any break for weeks. I love what I do, I did magic to get this new work, and some of it is so interesting and so much what I want to manifest in the world that I just have to pinch myself, but my days are truly insane just now. (I’m a big girl; I’ll get it done. I’ve written my way out of this kind of hole before and this is, after all, what they pay me to do. It’s melange, it’s a drug that makes my veins sing, it’s nectar, but it’s also bitter dirt. This dance with The Bramble Bush is what I was born to do. But I still feel a bit like Alia, dancing on the knife’s edge even if, as Christine Kane sings, “I know this weary so well.”)
And that’s why I wake up as early as needed (and, a few days this week, it has been very, very 3:30 am-ish early so that I can be at my desk by 5:00 am) to sit in the silent dark and do my daily practice. The longer and more intense my days are going to be, the more I need those morning moments, sipping from my “You Pray; I Dance Naked in the Woods” mug and watching what Gerard Manley Hopkins called “Oh morning, at the brown brink eastward spring[ing], Because [Sophia] over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
May it be so for you.