Solstice Lessons: Staying Safe During a Pandemic Winter

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” — Paul Theroux

“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.” — Gary Zukav

We have been living in Pandemic Land for almost nine months now. We are collectively exhausted by the worry, the constant vigilance about mask-wearing and hand-washing, the remote schooling, the Zoom everything. Our exhaustion is showing in the rising Covid-19 case numbers and, sadly, deaths. It’s hard to stay vigilant and stay away from our beloved friends and family for so long, but with an effective vaccine on the horizon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just have to figure out how to get through the next several months without creating an even worse situation for ourselves. And what better season to do it in than this one.

Today is December 1st, and we are less than a month away from the darkest day of the year, Winter Solstice, which comes on December 21st. We can use the wisdom of nature and the cycles of the seasons as a guide for how we might approach this time.

Think for a moment about winter. The cold, the dark, the stillness. Animals hibernate, many birds have flown south for the winter, and there is the feeling in nature of slowing down. Nothing is growing, everything is dormant. We humans have a tendency to operate outside the cycles of nature—we don’t usually slow down just because it’s cold and dark outside. In fact, typically this time of year is full of festivities, social obligations, frantic shopping, and attempts to commodify joy. What if we took this pandemic year as an opportunity to take our cues from nature rather than trying to maintain the frenetic pace we often associate with the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year?

What would it look like to lean into nature’s rhythms right now? We could use this time to go inward, to meditate or pray. We could use this time to rest, to allow ourselves to sleep and dream. We could use this time to nest in our homes, either with our family or by ourselves. We could find small pieces of joy in our surroundings—a cozy blanket on the couch, a cup of tea, a good book or favorite movie to keep us entertained. And by using this time as a way to root down and feel our connection with the earth and its cycles, we can help our fellow humans by keeping them safe.

It’s hard to let go of traditions and expectations. I’m not suggesting that we forgo all of our favorite holiday plans—put up those decorations, bake some cookies, listen to music. It’s hard to feel isolated during the holidays, but we don’t have to view this as a time of deprivation and sadness. We can find wisdom in the cycles of nature, and experience this time as an opportunity for contemplation and stillness. We can allow this holiday season to be a little bit different, so that next year our loved ones will still be there for us to celebrate with.