This morning I woke up in the middle of the sky to an intercom voice announcing initial descent into Newark, New Jersey. I opened my eyes to see the sun peeking over the blanket of clouds and immediately resented the East coast for being three hours ahead of the time zone I’ve grown accustomed to.
After eating, napping, and somewhat acclimating to the modern splendors my parents house has to offer, I remembered that today is the winter solstice! Had I remained in Mount Shasta where I belong, there is no way in hell I could have forgotten such an important day.
The shortest day of the year, and a new moon on top of that!
I’ve been looking forward to it. I’ve never been a huge fan of the winter, but then again, I never lived in a sweet little mountain town before. I always looked at it as something I needed to suffer through in order to get back to summer again. Summer is my time.
But this year feels different. I’m still not crazy about the winter. I still feel like a completely different person than I was in July. The difference is, now I acknowledge winter as a welcome break from my summer buzz of hyperactivity.
Moving to the west coast was more than just a relocation, it was a total lifestyle change for me. Farming and living off the grid for a while helped me to simplify my life and become much more in tune with the seasons.
Work slows down. It’s cold and dark. I sleep a lot. I consider snuggling a “productive activity.” The fire needs to be maintained around the clock. I bake and make soups to heat up the kitchen. Diet consists mostly of winter squash, brassicas, root vegetables and animal food. Lots of it, at that. Tasks that have been piling up on that back burner finally get attended to. I traded in my summer dresses for multiple layers of wool. Sometimes I go days without seeing the sun, but it’s okay because I take a vitamin D supplement now ;)
I drink a LOT of herbal tea.
These are changes I had previously never let myself adapt to with the changing of the seasons. A few years ago the notion of letting my life slow down for a season was as bogus as baloney. Now that I’m sitting in my parents’ house, with all the bright, overhead lights and central heat, I can hardly even tell it’s winter. Don’t feel like a short day to me, now!
But don’t worry! My Facebook friends reminded me. Facebook is so totally in tune with nature, you guys.
I decided to honor the solstice by completing 108 sun salutations. I’m not sure exactly why this is a yogic tradition, but I’ve heard of it before and it sounded like a really nice thing to do after sleeping in an airplane seat for several hours.
I turned off the lights, lit a candle and switched on the ridiculous fake fire thingie my parents have hanging on the wall. In this environment, I moved through the 108 surya namaskaras and let my body and mind focus on the dark stillness of winter while also joyfully welcoming back the sun.
Aside from simply being a really nice experience, I have to say that the practice helped me feel like I’ve made it past some significant milestone.
My transition into winter started early because I fractured my foot at the end of August. This means that the waning activity and quiet time spent alone have been going on for what seems to me like far too long.
Yoga helps me to remember important lessons sometimes. One of which is that it’s far more difficult to relax than it is to be engaged.
Corpse pose, in which you simply lay on the floor and release all muscle tension, is said to be the most difficult yoga pose to master. This is because it’s so damn hard to let go. To lie still and be at peace with yourself.
This new moon winter solstice is a great day to take it easy and reflect. Embrace the quiet stillness of winter. Let the body rest and purge your soul of lingering regrets and worries. Acknowledge victories and set goals for the coming year with an open heart.
I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s also just really nice.
Ending this with a great quote my lovely friend April posted on Facebook (okay, I swear, that’s the last time I’m mentioning that name!) recently:
“Isn’t it good to know winter is coming—
and that life will be a little
more quiet— and you will be home
writing and eating well and we will
be spending pleasant nights wrapped
round one another—and you are home
now, rested and eating well because you
should not become too sad—and I feel
better when I know you are well.”
–Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans
Go get yr hibernation on.
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.