Light & Shadows (Waiting for Winter Solstice)

angel with light

Dear Friends,

Here is the post I intended to write and send.  You probably received a version of it recently with this same photo and title above.  Well that was due to an erroneous click (darn it) that prematurely published my post when it wasn’t even finished; and I suspect that those of you out there who know me best must have thought something was odd since the wayward post was so short, ha ha.

So, here I go again:

I was speaking recently with my gym manager and it turns out that we had in common a complete dislike and disapproval of dark winter days.  We talked about driving in the afternoon at the reasonable hour of 5:00 or 5:30pm yet feeling as if we were driving in the darkest tunnel or being swallowed by a deep, dark abyss.  The manager had a cousin who used to travel around the world following the sun, and said he had a solution for me but it would cost a few pennies.  “What’s your solution?” I asked.  “Fly to Australia, or anywhere in the southern hemisphere,” was the reply.  I laughed, and said yeah, that ain’t happening.

The feeling of being swallowed up by a dark cave – that is what the time change, shorter days and winter do to me – it creates a black, unforgiving void, thrust upon me with little chance to acclimate because we turn our clocks an hour back in early November.  Those who say it gives them an extra hour sleep or allows a brighter morning; well, that does not fly with me.  Give me light in the afternoons, as much as I can that follows nature’s cycle.  If we didn’t change our clocks, when would it start getting dark?  Well a little later and I would take that in a heartbeat. I’m trying to squeeze out as much light as I can during the months of November and December. I simply keep remembering, “it does get better!”


Photo courtesy private collection of R.P. Macaulay, lover of outdoors, mountains, caves and campfires

I used to dread driving home from work at 5:00 pm and feeling like I had been swallowed up by some dark monster.  I also did not like the fact that I couldn’t enjoy after work walks at the ocean.  I’m not alone; research backs up the fact that depression, accidents, loss of productivity, illness rise with the time change.

light and shadows

A yoga teacher once upon a time suggested that I light candles during the darkest winter days and perhaps that might help psychologically.  But what really helped me psychologically was a huge, mammoth, awesome, tremendous piece of knowledge handed to me by my husband many years ago.  He told me that once we hit Winter Solstice, we would – with each succeeding day – gain about a minute of light.  I was flabbergasted; how had I missed this important piece of information during my formative years?  The nuns didn’t mention it, and neither did the college professors at the junior college and university I attended.  But my practical husband full of common sense had picked up this vital piece of information, and it changed everything for me.  Now I can be more patient and full of hope because after December 21, we will gain a minute of light each day and those minutes and days add up until all of a sudden I’m driving in the late afternoon and I notice it’s staying lighter later!  Hooray!

So I wait for Winter solstice (Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:23 PST) and I light candles (sometimes).  I do know and understand that there is no light without darkness; there is no darkness without light; we live in a world of opposites, duality, paradoxes, and mysteries.  We emerge from the darkness of the womb into the light of life; and when life is over, the candle light of our existence here on earth is snuffed out.  Where we go, I can’t say for sure of course, but since I trust in the existence of a benevolent Creator, I imagine we go back into His/Her loving arms.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s lots of light there. Hooray!

The very nature of Nature is its cycles;  birth, death, rest, growth, retreat, winter, spring, summer, fall, light, dark.  Nothing stays the same and everything is always changing, but the cycles remain the same. Seeds are planted in the darkness of the soil, and reach and grasp through the dark barrier to touch the light of spring. Plants wither, leaves fall, our bodies once young start aging as well as we wait once again for cherry blossoms to dance merrily on their stems.  Our ancestors followed the cycles of Nature much better than we moderns do. The equinoxes and solstices were their beacons and signaled whether a harvest was due to be planted or cultivated; they knew exactly when the sun would return and bring along with it, hope for new life.  In the meantime, all of life rested and bonfires were a source of comfort, until light increased with each passing day and it was time to reap the benefit of the harvest.  And they celebrated mightily, with gusto!  (My Celtic ancestors, God bless them, they knew how to dance, celebrate, frolic and cavort !)

So I simply cope and accept; I accept that life is full of shadows, light, darkness and brilliance.  It’s just the way it is, and the harder I fight it, the more miserable and discontent I will be.  In acceptance and introspection, I can savor and cultivate a concentration on an inner light,  or as I wrote in a poem once,

I focus on an inner sun burning in my breast that takes my breath

and prevents me from neglect of a loving God ever patient and true

always present in me and you. “

Acceptance coupled with visualization! Why not?

I will end by sharing a powerful visualization that appeared in my mind’s eye about a year ago while sitting in quiet and contemplation.   In this spontaneous daydream, that came unprompted by any personal effort, I saw myself alone on the face of a cliff, free climbing, my fingers raw and locked tightly into a crevice. Dark shadows would fall all around me and I would have to freeze, unable to get a clear view of the next nook I could take hold of.  Then the sun would come out and shine its brilliant luster and only then would I be able to move my way up once again, edging inch by inch closer to the top. In this vision the sun was my savior but the dark shadows forced me to pause, rest and regroup.

rock climbing

I’m sure  that the vision simply was a metaphor for life, its struggles, challenges, sufferings along with its beautiful moments of clarity, exultation and victory.  Needless to say, I was very grateful for this little inner movie that played in my brain.

May your Winter Solstice give you strength and inspiration and a renewed appreciation for the light and the dark in your life.








25 thoughts on “Light & Shadows (Waiting for Winter Solstice)

  1. Hi, Susan – This is truly uncanny! Richard and I were just having a very similar conversation when we were driving home from a friend’s house about an hour ago. I was whining about it being so dark and gloomy both at the start of the day and then again from late afternoon onward. Just like your husband did for you, Richard reminded me that after December 21 we would gain a minute of light each day…and 2 minutes each day after January 7. Now that’s something to look forward to…and it’s only two weeks away! May the Winter Solstice give strength and inspiration to all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha, that is so funny and absolutely great! Our husbands – got to love them!

      I’m glad I am not the only one whining out there 🤣

      And thanks for the “two minute” tip! Hooray!

      Bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I find the darkness cozy most years, Susan – this year, more than ever, since I’ve just retired and don’t have to drive to and from work in the dark. I do have a light I turn on in October that I don’t turn off until April, reminding me that light is always present. I know it’s hard for many, and I’ve had my moments, too, when it seems unending and depressing. One positive I rely on is that dust doesn’t show and I can put my dust cloth away until the light returns. I like the idea that God is light and shines inside us even during the darkest of days. Thanks for sharing your images and perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a far braver woman than me – as the dark lurks closer and closer, looming over me , I cower in a corner and shake like a rattle. Ha ha. Well, I exaggerate! But, your perspective is most welcome as I was looking for a reason to not dust! Actually in this very moment I am draped in a cozy blanket, sitting in a cozy chair in the dark holding a steaming cup of coffee. Somehow the dark is most tolerable. Thanks again for your great comment! What a writer you are 👏

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue, I posted a comment, but I think it was lost. Here it is again. I loved your reflections and I, too, crawl toward the light that the Winter Solstice brings. I’ve incorporated “hygge” the Scandinavian tradition of all things cozy, and I incorporated it into our winter routine beginning at Thanksgiving. Check it out. “hygge” is a cultural obsession.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Suzette,
      Thank you dear friend for making the effort to write a reply not only once but twice. That is a true friend – you will get that comment through come hell or high water or if it’s the last thing you do, and I am the most grateful beneficiary.

      I’ve never heard of “hygge”. Where have I been? In a dark cave? Well, perhaps I have been hee hee. Since I got back to the cold and damp that San Francisco is known for, I have been craving tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – my comfort food, and boy does it comfort me. I fry the sandwiches in butter to give them extra richness and I add organic heirloom tomatoes to my base tomato soup, and I am in heaven. If I have a cozy, soft blanket around my shoulders and sumptuous chai tea nearby, I am in an even better mood.

      Thanks as always for reading, your support, love and encouragement. Winter Solstice here we come, yippee!


      • Dear Serenity Chasing,

        Yes, Imbolc: half way mark between winter solstice and spring equinox! I used to revolve my yoga classes around the Gaelic seasonal festivals so thanks for the reminder about Imbolc as a marker for spring. I can be even more hopeful as its arrival is just around the corner as you say! Isn’t it silly how we have guilt about down time? Maybe that is why God made winter – “to force” us into a more introspective mode. I certainly can’t change winter or darkness so I cope the best I can.

        We all have the power to adjust our attitudes! Thanks for reading and your lovely comment!



  4. While I admit that too much darkness can be depressing, I rather like Winter Solstice. I feel cozy and relaxed during the winter in a way that gives me quiet hope. After it I enjoy seeing the days get longer and my world get brighter as we head toward summer, with all it’s doing and happening. But winter is when I cocoon and reflect, plan and accept. However, if it’s not your preferred time of year, I wish you the grace to get through it as happily as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ally Bean,

      I have learned to embrace the cocooning, indoor time, candles, and appreciate in my own way nature’s most optimal time for reflection and introspection, but it has taken time and years! As a quintessential California girl who loves beach, surf, sun and summer, I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming, but mellowness, acceptance, maturity, and growing older have helped me to adapt and accept! Not sure about that growing older part, hee hee, since the bones ache and creak more during the cold winter months.

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom; it is very helpful and deeply appreciated.


    • Oh, thank you dear friend. Stay dry up there in rainy Oregon, and you know where to find the sunshine, right — Palm Desert! ha ha. Til then, enjoy your time with retired hubby and grandson! That always seems to bring sunshine into our darker evenings – family, babies, laughter, cheer.


  5. Thank you, Susan. I really enjoyed reading this post today; I love your writing style.
    grown up on the east coast with freezing cold temperatures and lots of life-stopping
    weather, ( snow, sleet, etc.) the “California Version “ of winter always seemed “tame”
    in comparison.
    While “darkness during the day” affects my
    mood greatly ( I have a total mood change
    when I drive south on Skyline and the sun
    appears around San Bruno Ave ); “ evening/
    night “ darkness has always served as
    “permission to slow down” , read, light a candle ,
    pour a cup of tea, reflect on the day, rest.
    That said, I do appreciate how gently my cozy evenings
    become shorter and shorter, (I now know ,from reading your post,) at the rate of 1-2 minutes a day,
    and by the time we have our longer days of
    sunshine, I feel ready to be more “active “again.

    The whole concept of “Hybernation” has
    always intrigued me. I sometimes feel a
    bit envious of the bear!
    Lots of love, Susan, and thanks again for this post!


    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great reply, Gail. We have so much in common and think so much alike! I get through the winter and survive by doing the things that you mention: taking the time to slow down, go within, read, meditate, contemplate, rest, get cozy, drink tea, light candles, hibernate… then because I’m SO busy doing all of that, pretty soon it’s March and spring is on its way, hee hee. Love you!


  6. I love it! Your writing is so poetic; and you tell a great story. I always count the days from November 1 through December 21. I call them the descent into hell – 51 days. Then as you say, day by day, minute by minute, the light shines brighter! It lifts my spirit to think this way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I’m so glad I’m not the only crazy one and someone else refers to dark winter days as a descent into hell, Ha Ha. Well, I guess if we didn’t have a term for hell, we wouldn’t have its opposite — Heaven!

      In order to appreciate he warmth and life that light gives, we need to experience its opposite. There’s a reason for everything, eh?


  7. That’s exactly what I do. I look forward to having a little bit more light each day after Dec. 21. I used to hate going to work on the dark and coming home in the dark. Now, I’m retired, so I can take advantage of the midday light!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m retired too and I am out and about all day, as much as I can savoring and squeezing out every last bit of light and sunshine that I possibly can. I used to sit in an office all day long at a computer; I would try to get out when I could to get a little extra Vitamin D, but it was never enough. In the last year of my career, I was able to get to my hometown between 4:30-5pm, giving me a little space to fit in a therapeutic ocean walk. Now it doesn’t matter since I’m retired, and I can get my walks in during the day and I am happy! And you can get your runs in! Life is good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, the Pacific Ocean, Northern California. The California coast highway is quite crowded these days but the ocean access and views are great and satisfactory compensation! I live half my time in the Palm Springs area and the mountain scenery is stunning but I am always so happy to get back to “my ocean” 😃

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Susan, This is a wonderful post! It really made me stop and think. Gaining the one minute of light each day does really make a difference. We used to live in the Yukon and “Cabin Fever” is a real thing. I liked your words, “very nature of nature”. Your concept of acceptance resonates with me on many levels. Thank you for sharing your insights. Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Erica,
      Oh thank you for your kind and perceptive feedback. Yes cabin fever is a real thing and you are a hardy soul for braving the Yukon. Oh the stories you could probably tell about winter! I seem to feel so much better hearing from you and other folks as if sharing our struggles make them more acceptable and palatable. We know we aren’t alone.

      Blessings to your,

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks so much to all of you for the great description of your winter feelings. I must say that I live in Grey County in Ontario, Canada. Never thought about it when we moved here. Who would? We moved here in the summer so there were no signs saying “Winter is coming in Grey County”. And so it did and it seems every year since it has gotten more grey. The last two winters have been especially dismal. This year in particular there has been hardly any days with a hint of Sun. Believe me when it comes out one jumps and shouts for joy. I have a neighbor who is already looking to see where they can go to get some sun. She gets very depressed. Some days I find myself looking out the window wondering if the sun is still up there somewhere. However, I realize now I live a Hygge lifestyle thanks to Suzette.
    Get up , make a delicious morning coffee, pull out my book of the moment, throw a cozy shawl on and savor the moment. After that a warm breakfast and then my husband and I bundle up in our outdoor snowsuits and take our long walk, unless of course its icy. After that anything goes and in the evening we sit by our wood stove and watch a good movie. When Solstice comes around my husband also lets me know that the days are getting lighter, and that actually sparks a joy within and lightens the last few months before Spring. I too think about the hibernating bears because it seems our energies go quieter and draw us to states of contemplation or a really good nap.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Dale,

      Your comments and feedback give me ample reasons and reminders to flow with the Winter and celebrate the chance to get cozy, hibernate, move toward quieter states of reflection and contemplation. Nature did not intend us to be on hyperdrive all the time ! 🤣 As my vision revealed, its those times when the sun is hidden that compel us toward rest and repose, to conserve our energies and regroup for we will be called to action soon enough. Even a sun worshiper like myself gets it! Ha ha! Great to hear from you 😘

      Much love



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