A few weeks ago it was the Winter Solstice of the Southern Hemisphere. The shortest day of the year, it is when the sun is at its lowest and weakest. It is also considered to be the turning point of the year, after which the light will grow stronger and brighter.
Many traditions around the world celebrate solstices. The winter solstice (in December in the Northern Hemisphere) was dubbed ‘the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun’ by the Romans.
Pagan Scandinavia’s festival of Yule involved drinking mead as minstrel-poets sang ancient legends around bonfires.
The last few years, I have developed my own tradition of marking the solstice (despite that earning me membership in what my friend Deb calls the ‘Woo woo club’).
June 21st this year was no exception. In addition to being the solstice, it also happened to be one of those Cape Town winter days that rests in your bones - complete with heavy winds and rain.
Despite knowing that we wouldn’t SEE the sunset, three of us decided to brave it and go outdoors anyways. We found a west facing piece of beach on the Atlantic ocean for our reflections.
|Incense on car dashboard :)|
Sitting in the car, we lit some incense and wrote intentions for the upcoming year. My friend Allison, determined to find something close to mead (honey wine used traditionally in ancient solstice celebrations) produced some sweet wine to drink at sunset.
|Allison (the mead provider:-P) and myself|
Fortunately, the rain subsided to a drizzle and I took a few minutes in silence after writing my intentions, wrapping them around a rock and throwing them into the ocean.
To many, Winter solstice represents a triumph of light over darkness. After that day, every day will get a bit longer, a bit more sun-filled. I look forward to the lengthening days and new light in my life.
Despite being a wonderful time full of learning and growth, these past six months have also contained a lot of loss and grieving.
Coming here, I grieved leaving my family for a second year living in Africa. Soon after arriving, my Uncle Greg passed away unexpectedly.
South Africa has also given me some space to come to grips with my experience in Malawi, one of the most eye opening times of my life. Malawi taught me a lot and as grateful as I am for it, it wasn’t always easy. I have taken some time to grieve the injustice of the crushing poverty. I left Malawi feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me -I was flying through the air not knowing where I’d land. I lost my naive innocent belief in own ability to change things and began to grasp the enormity of the complexities and challenges of development.
The way I saw and understood the world had changed completely. It felt like the very foundation on which I had spent the past twenty something years had crumbled and I was having trouble situating myself in a new knowledge. These past months in South Africa have been my start to emotionally integrating this learning.
I’ve also been grieving from a tough break-up which resulted in my ex getting on a one-way flight to Norway. After moving to South Africa together, the man who had been my support system, friend and lover in some of the most exciting, challenging and heart-wrenching experiences of my life and I parted ways on very sad and unpleasant terms.
Being the longest night of the year, it felt like a pretty fitting summation to the grief and loss of the past 6 months.
Sorry for all the drudgery and whining, but to sum it all up, the world that I previously been so in love with has revealed a different, harsher part of herself to me. I was ready to start seeing more positivity and light again.
As we entered into the longest night of the year, I released some of the pain that I’d being carrying around from all that loss and grief. As the sky darkened, I knew that the next day would be longer and prayed that I be open to receive the light that each lengthening day brings.