The winter solstice gives us the shortest daylight of the year. It is a time to prepare for the growing light that is to come, for coiling in upon ourselves and making ready for renewal.
Traditionally, it is a time for staying warm and gathering with those we love. But this year, there is no gathering. This year, there is no joining together. There is only oneself, or one’s small family unit.
We must draw back into our homes to protect ourselves and others from a debilitating and deadly virus. More than 300,000 have died from COVID-19 here in the US, and now more than 2500 deaths a day is common. It is the darkest time of this pandemic, at the darkest time of year.
And yet, just at this time, as daylight starts to increase day by day, the vaccine and its immunity start their increase as well. We know that each subsequent day will have more daylight because we have been through the cycle of a year before. The problem is that while we know the cycle of a year, we don’t know the cycle of a pandemic. We have not been through this cycle before, and so we don’t know how or when it will end.
We don’t know how well the vaccines will work. We don’t know how quickly the disease will subside. We don’t know when we can gather again — and that makes waiting all the harder. It makes the darkness even deeper, the preparation even more intense, the coiling even tighter.
At some moments, I imagine the energy and euphoria those coils will unleash when we can finally gather again. When we can come together for a birthday party. When I can join my work colleagues in the same room to imagine new solutions together. When I can do something as simple as riding the el train. I imagine the elation I will feel.
At other moments, the coils feel as if they will tear themselves apart, as if they will burst open prematurely, or as if they will crush me inside. They feel as if they could bury me in isolation or press me into conflict with those to whom I am closest.
Is this the coiling of a snake whose venom can poison my blood? Is this the coiling of a rope which will be my safe passage over a yawning chasm? Is this the coiling of both simultaneously, the entwining of danger and safety, endurance and abandonment, both the ending and beginning of life?
That is this moment… the solstice, the sun setting and rising, the virus and the vaccine, the unanswerable question, all together in the inexplicable coiling of my soul.
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