Winter Solstice 2011

Today is Winter Solstice.  As I write this, I’m having morning coffee, watching the sky change from dark to slate to a more luminous blue, glad as I am every year that the sun seems to be returning.  Modern educated woman that I am, there is something in my Nordic genes that makes me a little unsure every year that this great slow-spreading natural act of grace will happen:  the return of the sun.

And hope returns with it.  People speak of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, and I definitely have at least a touch of it (hence the big mug of coffee and early morning fumbling to light the Christmas tree lights in December).  Yet I have come to appreciate that I am also part of a greater natural cycle and that something precious would be lost if I sought to cut myself off any part of the process.  I am beginning to see that as we must make way for a greater whole—and this wholeness encompasses our connection to the earth, to our fellow beings, and the whole of ourselves.

For over 35 years, Parabola sought to bring this timeless wisdom contained in myth and all way and traditions to individuals.  These days, we aspire to bring this timeless wisdom to the burning issues of the day. Nature heals.  As we learn to let it be, as we expose what is hurt or in darkness to the light and the air of a greater awareness, it heals.

Nature can heal.  This is true on the level of the Earth, as the hard-working little team at Parabola is learning as we pull together our “Burning World” issue.   It is also true for human beings.   As we learn to practice a radical acceptance of the whole of ourselves, as we see and allow ourselves to be seen, we are healed.  As Christmas approaches, I find myself thinking of Scrooge, that “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner!  Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”   As we come out of our closed and oyster-like isolation (I never did buy that “happy as a clam” business, did you?) we find a new life.   As Scrooge eyes were opened to the whole of his life by the three ghosts, he was healed.   He reconnected with life, with the light of wisdom and compassion. May we all.

I and others in this blog space have written before in this blog space about the extraordinary liberating experience of being seen and accepted just as we are—and not just by ourselves or by loved ones but by the great light behind the universe.  After an embarrassingly long number of years, it is dawning on me that this experience of being seen and accepted is not just a great timeless moment of liberation or salvation, but a gradual unfolding of the heart and mind that takes place over long period of time.  It seems that we must build up the muscle of heart, so that we hold more and more of what is always being given.   As counterintuitive as it sometimes seems, this opening to a greater light of awareness, this opening to the sublime, requires that we develop the capacity to hold—really hug—the wounded , abandoned, and wild little child within.

As I mentioned here before, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in Jane Eyre, that great Victorian wounded and wild child.  There comes a moment when Jane despairs of ever seeing Mr. Rochester again.  After an hour of prayer with St. John Rivers, she comes close to marrying the impassioned but cold and rigid religious idealist  and becoming a missionary in India.  She knows this will mean turning down her own fire and burying her own true nature.  She knows this decision will be what is called in these days a “spiritual bypass” – an attempt to transcend messy or uncomfortable parts of our nature.  She knows that St. Johns “nature was not changed by one hour of solemn prayer: it was only elevated.”   And yet..

“All men of talent, whether they be men of feeling or not, whether they be zealots, or aspirants, or despots—provided they only be sincere—have their sublime moments, when they subdue and rule.  I felt veneration for St. John—veneration so strong that its impetus thrust me at once to the point I had so long shunned.  I was tempted to cease struggling with him—to rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existence, and there lose my own.”

To be fair to Jane, she didn’t just want to abandon the messy whole of herself, she was inspired by the zealot St. John to remember that life is brief and then comes the darkness of the unknown:  “life rolled together like a scroll—death’s gates opening showed eternity beyond:  it seemed, that for safety and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a second.”

But the voice of Mr. Rochester and her own deeper nature called, and she followed that voice.   Reader, in case you don’t know, she married Mr. Rochester and lived happily.  Yet they didn’t live a closed life. Both partners had a long but profound journey to acceptance of the whole:   “Jane! You think me, I dare say, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now.  He sees not as man sees, but far clearer:  judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. ”

It is Winter Solstice.  The light returns.  Trust nature.

5 thoughts on “Winter Solstice 2011

  1. Hi Tracy

    Nice depiction of a great cycle man on earth participates in within which the karmic dance takes place. How many can transcend the Ninth Wave.

    You’ve reminded me of the conclusion of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” It features the continuing struggle between the profane and the sacred. Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” and Franz schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

    “At midnight the devil Chernabog summons evil spirits and restless souls from their graves. The spirits dance and fly through the air until driven back by the sound of an Angelus bell as night fades into dawn. A chorus is heard singing Ave Maria as a line of robed monks is depicted walking with lighted torches through a forest and into the ruins of a cathedral.”

    Fantsia was made in 1940. They don’t make them like this anymore

  2. This was a beautiful piece Tracy. I feel so much of what you said and I spent a good time walking on the earth today and watching the sky, lighting candles and tree lights! Recently I went to Grey Towers in Milford, Pa to see a 2 man play of A Christmas Carol… The lead man has been doing this for 30years, reading, then playing all characters. Ten years ago his son joined him and took up some of the parts.. There were abut 60 people in the living room of this old estate and the father/son actors were at hands reach. Being so very present (and older, maybe) I thought, this is all dharma, Dickens was talking about greed, hatred and delusion and waking up to the heart. It makes me think I am starting to wake up too. Merry Christmas , Metta and Blesings of the Season. Gratitude for all you write and share with us!

    1. Merry Christmas and much metta, Judy. I have thought for a long time that Dicken’s Christmas Carol is a story of awakeng from greed, hatred, and delusion. Thank you for your insight and kind words.

    2. Scrooge’s awakening came from seeing himself and his way of living from a new, a really new, vantage point, that of his own impending death, which was really pushed onto him, beat into him by the three apparitions. He, of himself was incapable of seeing what he was, or even that he might die sooner rather than later, it required a big jolt from outside his ordinary awareness.
      This is the problem. Where is the jolt from the outside that will show me what I really am? I imagine I know myself, but what I know is my picture of myself, my good boy dream, not the warty reality.
      One cannot jump over one’s own knees. I cannot by my efforts flip my attention into a higher realm where there is real SEEING. And I cannot really change without this SEEING. So we are left with Lenin’s question: what is to be done?
      Maybe I can only chill out and accept my situation, while still WISHING for a contact, a vision, a …..
      Mr. Gurdjieff said one had to “make vacuum” (by being empty?) to draw in what one needs.

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