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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12 17 21 – The Darkest Days of the Year

“Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the darkness as it is in its fullest influence. The once fertile forests are now bare and awaiting their rebirth. The surrounding shadows whispering to us of our natural-born powers. And the knowledge of a convergent awakening.” ― Dacha Avelin

The winter solstice in nearly upon us. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it will occur on Tuesday

December 21st at 10:59 EST. The winter solstice is the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn. In the Northern hemisphere, we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in terms of daylight. Regardless of what the weather is doing outside your window, the solstice marks the official start of winter. It has not felt much like winter here in my area. The ground is not frozen, and although we occasionally dip below freezing, our weather in northeastern PA is more like what I would expect to find in Virginia or points south. Even bird migration patterns seem to be shifting. It seems a bit of a strange year and as a species, we have much to learn in respect to our place in the natural world and our stewardship responsibilities. As we celebrate the birth of the new and rejuvenation, it is a good time to reflect on where we are and where we want to go moving forward in body, mind, spirit and as a species.

The optimist within me sees what is happening to and around us as an opportunity to reevaluate and change our behavior. As a recovering person who has had to reevaluate my priorities and revise my behavior, I know that it is possible. Sometimes, we get wake up calls. Worth heading such road signs when they appear. Denial does not change the dynamics; it just makes them more entrenched and more difficult to address.

I know that many around me are in high celebratory mode at this time of the year. The Holiday season is upon us, Christmas, Hanukkah and roughly ten other religious holidays occur in the month of December. To be candid, I have never really found this month to be a high point in my year. The holidays mark a historic loss I experienced in which high hopes were dashed and replaced with emptiness and grief. Feelings that have never quite gone away. They have dulled into the background with the passing of time, but they are still very much with me. I guess, in reflection what such loss has given me is empathy and a sense of connection with others who have experienced such senseless loss. There are, unfortunately many of us.

I do enjoy the winter, the possibilities of snowstorms and spending time indoors, reading a good book or time with friends and family. Post holidays, into January and February, the pace tends to slow. I guess it is sort of a hibernation. Even time outdoors is different. The world seems closer in and quieter, the land barren and frozen. Animal life less active. The air crisp and clear. Julie and I have found that this is a time we like to go down to coast and experience the ocean in winter. A few years back, we were in Cape May, New Jersey when an artic bomb cyclone passed through. We got to see the other side of winter, a powerful storm turning the ocean to froth. It churned up onto the beach for miles. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Grateful to have had this experience.

The solstice is also symbolic for me of the movement from darkness to light. We are at maximum darkness in the cycle of the planet here in the Northern hemisphere. It reminds me that for all things, there is a process of decay and rejuvenation, the later often comes in our darkest hours. A common recovery theme as well. At times, it seems like a rough ride, but I have been blessed to get through it and gain new tools. The spring of things is ahead of us.

If anything, it is certainly the season of reflection. We close the book on one full cycle of the earth and open ourselves up to the possibilities of what may come next. First and foremost – I am grateful to have made it one additional revolution on this rock encrusted globe of water covered in a thin layer of air. One lesson that comes through our times for me is that life, in all its forms is fragile and not to be taken for granted. We are stewards of what we leave for the next generation. Our report card says we can and should do a better job. We must try with earnest to do better for the sake of the next generation in so many ways. Change starts with each of us.

Grateful for recovery and the tools it has given me. Grateful for new opportunities in the coming year. Grateful to have made it this far, which itself is a lottery win. Grateful for all the people I have connected with and shared community with this past year. Grateful for this roof over my head, our dogs and Julie (not in ranked order). Grateful for the challenges endured and those coming at me as we move into 2022. I am even grateful to be way closer to 60 than I ever thought was in the cards for me, even as I think about those, I loved who had shorter paths on their journey. Grateful for all of those who have encouraged and challenged me to get to where I am today.

What are you grateful for today?

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