Happy Solstice!

Six months ago, I was writing about a hike through the mountains on the longest days of the year, savoring the length of light, the height of the sun, the brightness of the blue sky over alpine summits. Today, on the longest night of the year, I revel in the darkness, the thin crescent moon setting in the western sky, the sharpness of the stars in the night sky, the length of the shadows, the brightness of the holiday lights I put up on my house and yard to mark the dark night and stake my claim to it.

Many among us rue this dark day, fight the darkness and count the days until the sun returns and the green explodes across the land. I am not among them. I love the short dark days. I love the excuse to curl up by the fire as soon as I get home from work. I love getting up before dawn and watching the sky brighten in the east (this is so much easier to do in December than in May or June). Summer may bring domestication in the form of the garden, December brings domestication in the form of the hearth. The fire must be kept going, the candles lit. There is such peace in drawing in to the home place, the sacred hearth space. Stew, soup, stout, hearty fare, rosy cheeks, wet mittens, heavy boots.

In these dark days it is easy to look out into the world and see the darkness spreading. But don’t forget to look around you. Today I found inspiration in leafing through the Fedco catalog, daydreaming of those summer gardens, and reinvigorating my plan to grow food for our local food bank. Today I found inspiration in the tasting room of my local brewery, watching my neighbors file into to greet one another, welcome the newest brew and toast to the new year. I saw a community that I have neglected, and recommitted to participate, to enjoy, to converse, to give back. Today I found inspiration in the good people trying to live a good life here in this stretch of land from the St. Lawrence river to the Gulf of Maine-these are my people, and there are so many of us trying to do good in this world. It is easy to forget until you stop and take a moment to reconnect. When the dark shrinks the world to the edge of the light of your campfire.

Tomorrow I head back out on to the trail, making good use of the short daylight hours, returning to above the tree line in search of the ultimate winter visitor-a snowy owl, looking for a blessing from the magic of winter. It is this world I need so much. Happy solstice everyone. Find your trail, your tree, your beauty on these short days and in these long dark nights.

Sarah O'Malley

About Sarah O'Malley

Sarah is a science educator, naturalist, writer, tide pool fanatic and burgeoning obsessive trail runner. From personal experience she believes strongly in the restorative power of contact with nature, especially experiences that make your heart beat a little faster or get your hands and feet dirty. She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula with her husband and two dogs.