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“I will hold the candle til it burns up my arm…” Photo by Flickr user Rakka (Creative Commons license).

Tonight, Dec. 21, at 11:49 PM, my little spot on the earth will be the farthest away from the sun that it has been or will be all year. The longest night. The shortest day. The least warmth and light.

I don’t need to force this metaphor.

I resist it, instead.

No, this was not my best year. It was a damn sight better than last year, though, and immeasurably better than the few years before that. It’s taken me a while to know this in my whole body, but:

Warmth and light will return.

Years ago, I used to observe the solstices and equinoxes, and even the pagan sabbats in between: Imbolc on Feb. 2, Beltane on May 1, Lammas on Aug. 1, and Samhain on Oct. 31. By “observe,” I mean, I read up on the sabbat each year on that day and tried to do something appropriate and ritualistic to recognize it. Lammas is the first harvest, so maybe I’d clip herbs from my kitchen windowsill garden, for example. After one year of these observances, I realized how derivative of pagan celebrations many of our holidays are; Ostara (spring equinox/Easter) uses egg-fertility symbolism to indicate the earth is about to bloom again, and Yule/winter solstice is essentially the same as Christmas, sans capitalism and Christian imagery (read: Christ did not invent compassion or loving your neighbor. It existed in peaceful societies long before male-centered monotheism). There are foods and drinks associated with each sabbat, too, so sometimes I’d try a new recipe, or to incorporate “seasonal” ingredients into existing recipes. Local and seasonal food = earth.

These were small actions I took to feel connected to the cycle of a year, not because I’m necessarily pagan or wiccan (I have no religion. Well, maybe Pearl Jam. And/or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.), but because I wanted to mark the passage of time and the seasons in an earth-conscious way. This was especially useful to me in winter months, when I dealt with mild seasonal depression. Creating my own ritual around, say, Imbolc, and marking the return of light reminded me, in early February, that spring was much closer than it seemed.

Just like it’s helpful for me to realize that after today, the days begin to grow longer again—that early, before Christmas, even! The downward slope (as I imagine it in my mind) toward the winter solstice, the longest night, will be over.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. -Rumi

In 2016, I’d like to return to my quiet little observances of the sabbats. To remember the flowers, leaves, warmth, and light always return—then go again, return again, go, return…

I’ll start by lighting some white candles tonight.

I’m out for a bit. Best wishes to you for whatever holiday(s) you celebrate, and that your 2016 is better than your 2015.