Our meditative reflections continue this week with this essay brimming with descriptive images written by Women’s Writing Circle member Marilyn Gilpin, which she read at our December read around.
The Winter Solstice has arrived, marking the start of what may be a long cold lonely winter. It is, however, a time to rejoice now that the days begin to lengthen and this ghastly, dreadful, appalling year will soon be history.
The ancients had it right: the Solstice is something to celebrate. Despite the horrific news bombarding us every day, the earth continues to turn on its axis. The sun rises and sets. Summer fades into autumn which slowly descends into winter. As the daylight increases and the earth warms, spring and summer will follow, even during a pandemic. The universe is not indifferent to our plight, but brings welcome constancy in spite of it.
There is a peace that comes with observing the natural world in all its chaos and glory. Amid human turmoil the planets, stars and comets continue on their eternal journeys across the vastness of our universe. The crescent moon is waxing toward a luminous fullness by the end of the year. An interesting phenomenon this year (2020) is the historic alignment of Jupiter and Saturn as they orbit our sun. Visible in the southwestern sky at sunset, they are closer to each other than they’ve been since the 13th century. The peak moment of the conjunction occurs on the solstice, which is a good omen. Adding to the significance, it is said that this alignment was the inspiration for the legendary Star of Bethlehem. How fortunate I am to be alive to witness this rare celestial event. I am living in the right hemisphere to see it with my own eyes; I don’t even have to stay up late or use a telescope.
Connecting to a little piece of the universe in my own backyard is soothing to the soul. The view from the window over my writing desk is simple yet beautiful. The lawn thick with snow, the woods bereft of leaves but still dense and sheltering, the birds at the feeders. These warblers and sparrows and juncos are not stressed by coronavirus. They feed, swoop, chatter and play as they always do. A doe and her fawns cautiously tiptoe out of the forest in search of a snack at the edge of the garden. A groundhog pokes out of his hole, looks around then slips back in.
On any given day, one can observe a variety of wildlife unaffected by any human troubles. Chipmunks race from one bit of cover to another; squirrels chase each other up and down tree trunks in a mad game of tag. Rabbits hop, nibble and hop again, sometimes sampling bits of bird seed on the ground. Hawks soar above the bare trees looking for their next meal. The nocturnal creatures such as fox and raccoon are heard more than seen, although they often leave tracks in the snow. One can even catch the mournful bay of a coyote or the hoot of a barn owl.
It’s not just the critters that provide comfort and connectedness. Humans share Nature and the change of seasons with trees. Throughout the autumn they shed their leaves and prepare to take a rest from chlorophyll production. During their winter sleep, they gather strength for the monumental task of breaking dormancy in spring. Even at rest, they are magnificent; strong imposing sentinels that watch over us, reminding us that winter is nature’s way of getting us to slow down. Long nights and short days offer a chance for more sleep and less work. The Solstice evokes memories of our ancestors who marveled as they learned to observe stars, sun and moon, mark the seasons, and began to understand their small part in this vast, wonderful constellation we call home.
We are not in charge; the universe is. What a blessed relief that is.
Author’s Note: This piece was written in 2020.The alignment of the planets and the timing of the full moon that she mentions were not the same in 2021.
About the Author: Marilyn has been an avid reader and writer for as long as she can remember. Her writings, mainly memoirs and stories about daily life, have been published frequently in the New Sweetwater Reporter, the newsletter for East Nantmeal Township, where Marilyn resides. Her reading spans current releases, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as classics from both schools of writing. Marilyn studied drama at University, and acted in repertory theatre in Sacramento. For recreation she plays piano, and enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, kayaking or simply walking in nature. She lives with her husband, his many guitars, and their mischievous cocker spaniels.