Le solstice d’hiver : des choses
prennent fin alors que d’autres ne font que commencer
"Nous, humains modernes, sommes devenus divorcés des rythmes de
la vie qui nous entoure. Nous avons tendance à penser d’une façon
linéaire : l’été mène à l’automne, ensuite à l’hiver et
éventuellement le printemps; une progression linéaire d’un point à l’autre.
Par contre, le monde naturel fonctionne d’une manière cyclique et nous
avons perdu contact avec ces cycles."
Les arbres, qui, au beau milieu de l’hiver, semblent si stériles et
désolés, contiennent tout de même le potentiel d’une vie nouvelle
dans le bout de chaque branche. Quoique les bourgeons sont encore petits
et durs, ils sont tout de même là et l’observateur averti peut les
Aux alentours du 21 décembre, alors que nous soulignons le passage du
solstice d’hiver, prenez le temps d’observer la vie qui vous entoure,
à la fois silencieuse, résolues, mais pulsant pour nous tous. Tout comme
Hardy observait il y a plusieurs années de cela, il existe un "espoir
béni" autour de nous; il nous reste à en prendre conscience.
The Winter Solstice:
A Time of Endings & Beginnings
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
did the ancient gods Osiris, Baal, Attis, Adonis, Helios, Apollo,
Dionysus, Mithras, Balder and Frey all have in common? More
interestingly, what did they all have in common with Jesus, the
major figure of Christianity? All of these gods, representatives of
religions throughout the ancient Middle East and northern Europe,
celebrated births on, or about December 25th. All of them
were referred to, in their own particular traditions, as "The
Light of the World", "Sun of Righteousness", and
"Saviour". The Romans referred to December 25th
as "Dies Natalis Solis Invictus" – the Day of the Birth
of the Undefeated Sun.
Winter Forest Scene
On December 21st (or thereabouts,
depending on the particularities of the calendar on any given year),
we mark the time of the Winter Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere,
this is the shortest day of the year, a time of darkness and of the
oncoming snow and cold of the winter season. It is a time of death,
of stillness, of quiet, when the voices of nature are silent and the
very pulse of life is at its lowest ebb. Many birds have migrated;
only a few hardy chickadees and jays remain to remind us that life
persists even in the darkness of these days. Most animals have
retreated to snug burrows to hibernate, to wait in quietude and
sleep for the return of the spring. Annual plants have vanished;
only their seeds remain, dormant in the frozen soil for another
year, while perennials stand silent sentinel, barren branches waving
in the cold winds, seemingly bereft of any trace of life. The very
water stands frozen and still, while everywhere the snow and wind
rule supreme in a world in which the germ of life seems stilled by
the onslaught of winter.
(photo: D. Christie)
a few hardy
jays remain to
remind us that
life persists even
in the darkness
of these days."
And yet, it is a time of turning. If December 21st is the
day of least sunlight in the year, it follows that December 22nd
offers a bit more, and December 23rd, still more. By the
25th, the pattern is noticeable and so the ancients
celebrated, even in the depths of the darkness, the promise of the
life to return. Thomas Hardy wrote a poem, slightly over one hundred
years ago, which summarizes the depression of modern humanity, and
the sense of hope in the natural world, over this time of year:
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate,
When frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted night
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
The more time I spend in the fields and woods around my home, the
more I become aware that we, as modern humans, have become divorced
from the rhythms of life around us. We tend to think linearly:
summer leads to fall, to winter, and eventually on to spring, in a
progression from one point to the next. The natural world, on the
other hand, works in cycles and we have lost sight of those cycles.
Just as Hardy laments, we look out on the landscape on a cold, hard
day in December and can see nothing to promise us of the spring that
can seem so distant. And yet, that promise is right there, at hand,
for the one who rediscovers the rhythms of life.
Those same trees that seem so barren and still have, at the tip
of every branch, the potential for new life. Although the buds are
still small and hard, they are there, noticeable to the careful
observer. Our small birds whisk about in the branches, gleaning life
even on the hardest of days. If one happens to be out and around in
mid-day, one can hear the quiet whisper and song of the chickadees,
even as the snowstorm threatens.
Light reaches in under the spruces, providing havens for hares
and even moose, partridges and squirrels, all taking advantage of
the touch of warmth that promises life and light to come.
And with the coming of the dark, the careful observer can notice
the northward march of the setting sun, even in those hard, cold
days of January – each one lasting a little longer than the
previous one, each one sending its subtle message of rebirth to
those who care to see. Our ancestors knew and appreciated this; for
them the coming of the winter solstice was not a time of mourning
but of renewal.
We celebrate Christmas with lights and fires and carols, with
feasts and merrymaking, with colour and laughter – all
manifestations of life about to spring forth once again. In this, we
are at one with our ancient ancestors (who had never heard of Jesus
Christ, but who knew, firsthand, about cold, dark, and snow), but we
need to carry this attitude over into the weeks afterwards. It is a
renewal of the spirit to take a walk or to ski into the woods on a
bright, cold day in January. Take a few minutes to watch the life
around you, quiet and purposeful, but pulsating for all. As Hardy
observed all those years ago, there is some "blessed hope"
out there; it rests for us to become aware of it.