Things of Winter Beauty and Wonder: Advent Day Twenty One

Day Twenty One

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice this year falls tomorrow (22nd of December), and is the shortest day of the year. The date on which the Solstice falls is slightly variable, from the 20th to the 23rd though it is rare for it to fall on the 20th or the 23rd (there’s complicated reasons why it varies and I’m scared of getting the explanation wrong and looking stupid, so do look it up). The word solstice comes from Latin, meaning the sun stands still, and that is what happens. For a few days, everything is held in this strange holding pattern before the days begin lengthening again. For me, there is a huge relief in this.

Sunrise on the winter solstice is a powerfully moving moment; the reality of watching it can be cold, wet and somewhat of a damp squib if you expect magical rays and invisible choirs.

I wrote the following poem last year and it sums up the feeling of expectancy and emptiness that I experience at this time of year:

Hallowed hollow

I will hold a space

A dark space

An empty place

A hallowed hollow,

Cupped between hands

Hidden between breaths

Lost between heartbeats

Harrowed from soul-falls.

I will hold a space

Without prayer

Without hope

Without desire.

Solstice Prayer

 

Solstice Prayer

 

Breathe in; the moment has come

To hold your breath within your heart.

Silence, while the light becomes so still

You can hear the tiny cracks as dawn breaks.

This moment, the light has travelled far

And pauses before starting that slow return

Growing greater by minute increments

Invisible at first but sure and steady

In the agonising climb to another height.

Like a pendulum, the year has swung,

Reached that still point of lowness.

The rising sun weak with worn gold

Shot through with crimson blood

Peeps above heavy clouds and

The moment passes, as always,

And we breathe out, knowing that

The darkness is turned away.