Winter Solstice always makes me cry before it makes me happy.
I suppose I have my rural roots to blame. Somewhere in my evolutionary DNA is the knowledge that I must work hard at the equinoxes if I intend to live through the solstices. Establish the crops before the heat of summer. Harvest and preserve food before the winter. We talk of cycles and seasons, but in my heart I feel the panic. Even though it’s no longer necessary, I still feel safer after putting up food in my cupboards and stacking wood in the barn. And I still feel relief when the earth tilts once again and the days grow longer. The solstice always reminds me of the yearly near-miss of death. And the yearly near-miss of death reminds me that life is precious and work is meaningful.
So yes. Every Winter Solstice, passing through the darkest day, I’m desperately thankful. I remember all we survived in the previous year and I let my heart go out in mourning for all the losses. Then I build a fire and burn my grief and cry.
And then the earth tilts.
And I begin again.
I wish you warmth and food and love this season. I wish you relief from sorrow and illness. I wish you all the things you need, including meaningful work that sustains you.
As you release last season into this, shifting your focus to the horizon of a new year, you might want to consider one of these challenges:
Fiona Robyn, who began this micro-poetry movement, describes a small stone as “a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.” She encourages others to join her in writing a stone a day through January. Need more encouragement? She offers a lovely ebook at no cost: How To Write Your Way Home. This is truly one of those inspired projects destined to grow.
As a side note: I learned about River of Stones from Anne Stormont when she participated in 2011. She is currently writing stones for advent and her descriptions are so beautiful. The River of Stones had slipped my mind in the past year but, because of Anne, I’m seriously considering participating in January.
The history of The 100 Themes Challenge is well-documented here. It became really big when Deviant Art became involved. Basically, it’s a list of themes (Introduction, Love, Light, Dark. . .) that serves as a jumping off point for artists. I first heard of the challenge in the contexts of writing and photography, but you can apply the list to any creative endeavor. To share your work, get involved with a community of others working on the same challenge. I know there are groups on DeviantArt.com, Fanfiction.net, and LiveJournal and I’m sure there are many more.
This is a fantastic way to share short fiction in a supportive community. Although you don’t have to write a story every week, many of the authors do.
Here’s the brief description: “Friday Flash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer. The idea is simple enough. Write a piece of flash fiction, defined as 1000 words or less, post it to your blog, and then on Friday announce it to the world via Twitter or some other social network along with the link to your post. If you use Twitter be sure to include the hashtag, #fridayflash.” Find out more on the #fridayflash website: http://fridayflash.org/press/about-fridayflash/
You might consider joining any one of the Flickr 365 groups. The idea? You choose a theme. You take a photo every day. The big one, Project 365, has nearly 25,000 members, but there are lots and lots of smaller groups (many of which still number in the hundreds). Some photographers focus on self-portraiture. Some focus on their kids. Some are a bit more obscure. One of my favorites is bench standing. (There are multiple groups devoted to this: Bench Monday, Happy Original Bench, Bench Anyday, Bench Monday (Anything Benchlike), and for those not inclined to limit themselves to benches, we have Standing On Stuff.) If you can imagine it, there very well may be a group devoted to it.
The point? Creativity. By looking at the same subject or theme on a daily basis, you begin to stretch. It’s a gorgeous idea.