“And don’t think the garden
looses its ecstasy in winter.
It’s quiet, but the roots
are down there riotous.” –Rumi
The Winter Solstice occurs on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 2:44 am PST
I’m returning to this site on the longest night after what has been seven long months since the sudden death of my husband, John. It was not cancer, there was no prolonged illness, no time to prepare, no time to say goodbye. I simply haven’t had the heart to write a blog during this time, although my work with cancer patients, their partners, families, and friends has continued and grown over this year. I feel a deep gratitude to be able to sit with others who are struggling with grief and loss as I swim in my own dark waters. Through it all I know that the light does return even when we cannot imagine that it will ever come again. Being in darkness, keeping a vigil through the long nights of winter, I have learned that I am stronger than I believed I could be. During a recent storm I looked out my kitchen window at the hummingbird feeder that John used to tend. It was empty and dirty and cobwebs cluttered the red-plastic flower adorned feeder hung at a height that is beyond my reach. Suddenly a hummingbird appeared in the pouring rain and stopped in front of the window right in front of me. Small wings beating furiously, the tiny bird kept staring at me. In that moment, I realized that I needed to take care of that vulnerable creature, that there was a life force depending upon me to get it together and tend to the hummingbirds during winter. And so, I hauled the ladder out, climbed up, took the dirty feeder down, cleaned it, filled it, went back out to the ladder and, once again, crawled up (the heck with my chemo induced neuropathy, I was on a mission!) and hung the newly restored hummingbird feeder filled with a tasty cocktail. This moment was a turning point for me in that it helped me to know that, regardless of the losses and the ill fated moments of life, I needed to go on. In that moment, that brazen hummingbird was my teacher, my friend, my companion, and would continue to be throughout the cold and sometimes lonely days and nights that lay before me
In the midst of winter’s darkness, the light returns. The longest night of the year heralds the return of the sun. And so it has always been that even when we cannot see it or feel it, there is a radiance around us that offers hope and new beginnings. The Solstice is a time for reflection, a time to turn inward, to rest, to gather strength for the long winter months to come. Our roots are deep in the soil of our lives, holding us and providing the genesis for the growth that will come in spring.
Light a candle for the Solstice fire … it symbolizes the return of the light. Put a sprig of holly nearby to symbolize vitality. Hang some mistletoe to bring fertility into the intentions of your life. Place some greens around your space to signify that which is evergreen … that which is everlasting … symbolizing all that is constant … reminding us of what we can hold onto when all seems lost and in darkness.
I offer this simple ritual to all of us whose lives are touched by cancer. May we find solace in the depth and beauty of the roots within ourselves that are riotous with brightness and promise. May rays of light illuminate your path through the darkness of the long night.