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Moments on the Marshes on the Eve of the Winter Solstice

By KM Huber

It is perfect winter solstice weather–even in north Florida. For many reasons, I am eager to observe this year’s solstice, a celebration of the dark during a season given to light.

The winter solstice is a pause, a reminder that in light, there is always dark. And there is the inherent stillness of the solstice. The increasingly dark and deepening autumnal sleep culminates in the pivotal moment of the winter solstice.

After this day, every dawn will mean more light and less night, as slumber gives way to the awakening of the spring solstice.

These are my thoughts on the morning of the eve of the solstice. I am driving to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico. It is not dark or light but both—in a way. I have the car heater on low.

Usually, I celebrate this northern hemisphere event with a walk around Waverly Pond but this has not been a year of “doing things as usual,” even holiday traditions.

Rather, it has been a year of firsts. Some may mean new traditions for me, among them driving to St. Mark’s on the eve of the solstice.

Perhaps more than any other season of my life, I am immersed in transformation. It is not surprising that I am drawn to the Refuge where transformation is in evidence everywhere.

Areas of longleaf pine stand stark in their burnt orange and black beauty against gray, morning skies. Wiregrass is the color of wheat ready to harvest.

Quiet of the marshes 1214

It is the season for prescribed or controlled burning, a matter of survival for the longleaf and wiregrass ecosystems. They depend upon the transformation fire brings–first alight with flame and then, darkness.

Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end because it is.

(Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening)

As I look across saltwater marshes in seasonal slumber—timeless transformation–I cannot imagine being anywhere else on this dark, gray morning on the eve of the darkest day of the year.

In the quiet of the dark, I am mindful of the necessity of letting go in life. It takes time, transformation does, time to awaken to the light of a life yet to come, time to welcome the world anew.

Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

The solstice seasonal slumber reminds me to quiet myself, to observe the dark that is as much a part of this festive season as is the light. In the stillness of the dark, the light swirls.

On the marshes of St. Mark’s on the eve of this winter solstice, I let a life lived end as a life I have not begins. Each ending is yet a beginning, a time for slumber in anticipation of awakening anew.

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KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.

© 2014 KM Huber. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.


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