Solstice. Shortest day of the year. Return of the light. For many people, this day passes by unnoticed and uncelebrated. But I noticed something interesting yesterday: among my friends this day was important. People were celebrating. One friend had baked her yearly traditional "sun cake", another had gone for a long run at noon in the forest, another had hung out pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed as an offering. No, I don't live among a tribe of pagans, holding hands in a ring in the forest (though I'm sure in my town there are plenty of folks doing that as well). I'm talking about fairly traditional people, for the most part.
The thing is, if you're active, if you're aware, if you're out in nature, if you care about how many minutes of light you have left to run in after you get home from work, you notice this day. You celebrate it. It's about living in tune with the seasons, with the way the outside world around you works. In a way, it ties in to what I was talking about yesterday, about experiencing the elements. If our lives are so controlled by artificial daylight, by climate-controlled living, we might not notice what the sun is doing. After all, you can watch TV or read a book or knit a sweater in the dark or in the light, it makes no difference if you have indoor lighting. But you can't go for a bike ride or easily run when it's pitch black outside Though I will pause for a moment here to thank my city for the lighted running trail in my end of town. It's only a one-mile loop of bark trail, but this time of year sees it packed with people in the dark afternoon hours.
In years past, we've baked sun-shaped cookies on this day, or made felt sun-ornaments or pinecone feeders to hang on trees. Yesterday was a busy day for us, it started off with me coaching swimming at 5:15 am, went through the kids classes and activities and ended up with me driving home from kickboxing at 9:00 at night. So there was no time for making anything special. As I was standing at my refrigerator, starving after all that activity, I did take a minute to think about what I could nourish myself with that would nonetheless pay homage to this special day. So I took out a bag from the freezer of last summer's blackberries. Perfectly preserved due to the modern miracles of refrigeration, we ate them and tasted the sweetness of long hot days in July and August. As I closed my eyes, I could feel the sun on my skin and the seasons turning around again.
Sure, we still have all of winter to go (and I can't wait to get up to the snow and enjoy some wintertime sports), but the light is returning and for that I am very thankful.