solstice brings inner illumination

by rebecca on December 21, 2010

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          Today my altared space is the Winter Solstice. When my children were little I scooped them up, one in each arm, to lay on my bed in the dark and watch rainbows appear on my walls. Now it is my daughter who is holding me in my hour of darkness and showing me the rainbow and the magic of shining a little Light.

          Long ago my babes were afraid of what they couldn’t see. I was wakened every night with a bright shining hall light pelting my eyes so my children would never have to face the dark. This I know: darkness provides rest, and without it I was going bonkers. I had to find a way to put some friendliness into the nighttime sky.

          I hung a crystal from the ceiling, the kind people put in their windows to capture the sun and send rainbows to the opposite wall. I gathered my children close so they could feel the heat of my breath and then I turned out the light.

          “Mommy, it’s so dark,” my children worried. I let the darkness penetrate asking them to inhale and exhale. I spoke about the fairies that were coming and told them if we were quiet they might accept our invitation.

          When I shined a flashlight, that spinning crystal spun out rainbows all around the room. The best thing about toddlers is their sense of wonder. A collective “Ooh!” went up as if I’d sent off fireworks.

          Everyone took a turn holding the flashlight, making the fairies dance. A flashlight close to the crystal made the fairies giant. Lowering the light created more dancers. A quiet reverence descended, replacing the frenzied excitement. We settled in and enjoyed the rainbows in the dark.

          Darkness has friendliness hidden within.

          This was the lesson I wanted my children to learn so I could turn off the hall light and sleep through my 2 am waking with that blaring light staring me in the face. Darkness is gentle and kind. There is subtleness in the dark and it allows other wonders to come out and play. Darkness is what allows us to see the Light. It’s what provided room for the fairies to dance on our walls.

          This lesson grew. We’ve talked about fear and darkness through the years. As dark moments rain down upon my children we’ve used the metaphor of the fairies to help them find their way out. What I didn’t know when I hung that crystal from the ceiling was how profoundly I was creating a ritual for myself.

          Several years ago my daughter announced she is a Pagan. To her mother, who is steeped in all things church, this word is about as fearful and frightening as the dark was to my toddlers. It meant hell was her destiny.

          I don’t believe in hell and haven’t for years and years, but it’s tough to rid my brain of all those early baptisms.

          Gandhi understood this difficult task and once asked a Hindu family to take in an orphaned boy and raise him Muslim, because when we live with the thing we fear, we can no longer be afraid.

          My daughter is Love embodied. She is tolerance squared. Living with her I am melting all my prejudices and words like pagan that once terrified me like demons in the dark now have the softness and reverence of rainbow fairies dancing on the walls.

          One of the fundamental tenants of my daughter’s life is not eating animals. She believes everything with a face has a soul and, all souls being equal, who are we to eat another? She lives with her brother, a hunter. And how does she treat him? Not with the smug disdain some might expect, but with hugs and laughter and love.

          She sees that he comes at life with a different lens. Consequently, she does not expect him to see life as she sees it. She lives her life and accepts him as he is.

          This is the pagan thing the church taught me was so horribly awful and bad? My daughter and her zest for celebrating the earth and its changing seasons? I’m supposed to hate pagans?

          Today in yoga I learned a new word: tejas. It is the Sanskrit word for Radiance within. There is a reason for darkness looming externally: because especially then can I concentrate on locating the Light within. This is the Light that never can be extinguished. It is the Light that, when fostered, grows.

          It grows to love and embrace those who are different from me, not merely tolerate them.

          I am grateful to this daughter of mine who is the reason I made friends with the night sky and first saw the spinning fairies. She is the one also, who taught me to look more deeply within and not settle for what some have taught me to believe is darkness. I’m so glad she’s come to shine in my hallway and chase away my nighttime fears.

          Tonight we’re climbing the side of a mountain in the town where my daughter was born and diving inside a star.




          How are you celebrating this auspicious solstice with a lunar eclipse and full moon? Are there words and labels that frighten you? What does tolerance look like in your life?


PS: if you would like to read some more about the beauty of the solstice I recommend Lindsey’s words at A Design So Vast.


The picture of the star on Boulder’s Flagstaff Mountain was taken by BoulderPhoto.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey December 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

This is so lovely – I can just see and your children huddled in bed, watching the fairies dance on the walls. And I hadn’t heard that story about Gandhi but how extraordinary. How true.


Kristen @ Motherese December 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm

What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. And she must be, in many ways, a beautiful tribute to you. I don’t know many loving, open-minded children who don’t come from loving, open-minded parents.

To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to the solstice. I think my body reacts more to cold than to light so there is some irony, I suppose, in winter starting with the beginning of our return to the light. Is that a glass half-empty approach? I hope not!


Stacia December 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

There’s something about rainbows, especially ones that dance. And I love finding them in the most unexpected places, like the spray from a sprinkler or a puddle in the driveway. (Or in the illumination those so close to us continue to bring into our lives.) =>


rebecca December 21, 2010 at 10:54 pm


I’ve so been enjoying all your writing about the Solstice. But especially this piece.


rebecca December 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm


Yes, I have often wondered about this beginning to winter as well. Why does the cold settle in just as the days begin to lengthen again? I’ll tell you the way my heart answers this question, goofy as it sounds. I often linger behind my realizations. I’ve wondered if the weather does this as well. Like it takes the temperature a while to catch up to the shortened days (in the autumn) and the lengthened days (in the winter).

I sometimes…no, frequently… make a realization, but then I take a while to implement that into my real life. I go back to the plain old example we’ve visited several times: shoe tying with toddlers. I knew it wasn’t worth the struggle long before I actually was willing to give it up. It’s like I had to practice. I’ve often wondered if the weather is also playing catch up. Perhaps I just tell myself this story to provide comfort. But real comfort it offers, so the story I will continue to tell. Thanks for your quandry today that confirms I’m not the only one wondering about this.


rebecca December 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm


Oh thanks for the summation on what I was trying to say!


SuziCate December 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

You’ve melted my heart with these words. You’ve brought back many memories with my own children with nightlights, flashlights, and open blinds to filter in moonlight. Somewhere along the line they learned to welcome the dark. I’m so glad you see the beautiful light shining within your daughter. It is much greater to truly love than to just tolerate. Sounds like you and your daughter are learning many wonderful things from one another on your journey.


Privilege of Parenting December 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Namaste to you and your family on these light-bringing dark days.


rebecca December 24, 2010 at 7:40 am


And to you. May the tejas find you as fully as the recent moons.


rebecca December 24, 2010 at 7:51 am

” It is much greater to truly love than to just tolerate. ” This sentence is truly packed full when my ears listen. It implies to me that love can sometimes mean not understanding completely, or maybe even not agreeing. I’m not sure why I heard it that way. But I did, and it felt good. And I wanted you to know, because I believe you were the one that stockpiled all that loveliness in there. Thanks, SuziCate.


Steve December 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

When I was religious, one of my favorite verses was from one of the prophets, saying, “I am the Lord, Your God. I am darkness and light.” You have put that in a new ‘light’ for me with this post, Rebecca. The relationship between darkness & light is just as fluid as everything else we encounter here. And I am with Lindsey – I did not know that about Gandhi, but it certainly follows from his character.

I want to thank you for your thoughtful posts on my blog. Your son’s reaction to my music will always be my favorite! I hope you dove deep into that star!!!


rebecca December 26, 2010 at 9:10 am


I’ve always loved GK Chesterton’s book “Man Who Was Thursday” for the same darkness and light reasons. I feel like the message revealed in that book is the say as your verse. But I’ve talked to people who don’t get that from the book. I find this fascinating. Maybe for some of us the line between the two is thinner.

We did dive deep into that star, climbing all the way up to the top pinacle. I love that star so very, very much and standing inside it just felt like a wonderful place to be.


6512 and growing December 30, 2010 at 12:35 am

There is so much beauty in this post.
– the peace in the darkness
– your willingness to let your daughter be herself
– your willingness to change your mind

Thank you,


Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities January 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

“Darkness has friendliness hidden within.” I love this. So true. Something I will carry with me.


pamela January 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I found it!! THank you for pointing me here. I love this:

Darkness has friendliness hidden within.

Oh thank you for this! And I agree with the others – this is a wonderful tribute to your daughter.

I am sorry this was a tough holiday for you. I also find the holidays difficult and am always relieved when January comes. Now it’s time to hide in the gentleness of the darkness. xoxo


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