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.