Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Craft of Winter Solstice

By Daniel Gregoire

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future....
— from "Solstice Poem" by Margaret Atwood

Against a rough plaster wall, about 19 empty picture frames -- each unique -- hang in an informal arrangement

Here we are on the cusp of the Winter Solstice, when the light comes back! To celebrate, I went to the discount store in search of inexpensive picture frames. I felt the urge to use what I have in the way of old photographs and glitter glue for some higher and greater purpose. So off I went to buy the most perfect plastic frames for $2.99. As I made my way to pay the cashier, an older man, he looked at me and my frames and knowingly exhaled, “Ah, this is the time for reflection.” Apparently, I was not the first person to feel nostalgic and buy many picture frames near the end of the year. We then engaged in small talk about Christmas and the state of the world. He lamented and I tried to cheer him up. But, both of our flames seemed to be flickering in the cold winds of coming winter.

It doesn't help that on the eve of winter the days are so painfully short. The nights are relentless, and they keep coming earlier. But then the Winter Solstice arrives and although it is the official start of winter, it comes as a brief reprieve from the growing night and a hopeful signpost. I need the solstice and all it represents: a threshold, the closing of a chapter, the start to sunlight timidly warming our cold and frostbitten souls. Winter solstice neatly coincides with our collective desire for a break in time to unlock and review the past and as we look to the light of the future.

This time around, I'm greeting the solstice with craft: using my old photographs and re-framing the past with some bright, artistic flourishes courtesy of glitter glue. I am making the most of this unique astronomical time, perhaps not unlike the ancient peoples of Europe who gathered breathlessly around bonfires and hearths for warmth to celebrate the new thing that is just on the horizon, growing light and the end of night’s dominion, even in the midst of cold. The end can be a beginning too, as someone once said, and the solstice is where we start from.

Spirit of the empty places, Spirit of new beginnings, here we are.
In this often difficult season of cold and night, it seems the light we need might go away forever. Help us to catch our breath so we might not stumble into despair. Let the past be our guide, helping us to the future we need — just on the horizon, unlocking, opening, growing.

About the Author

Daniel Gregoire

Rev. Daniel Gregoire is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton in Grafton, MA. He loves being a guide to those on spiritual journeys and a companion to all in life transitions.


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