Solstice Solitude

By , December 21, 2013

Despite my best intentions, this year’s Christmas season started later than we had intended (see Early Onset Christmas). We’ve caught up, but may not be quite there yet. Each observance of the season seems to find me a bit unprepared.

Today, at 8:11 a.m., is our Winter Solstice. Ideally, I take time to contemplate this day beforehand, to watch the brief transit of the sun on our horizon, to fully experience the longest night of the year, to meditate on its significance. I’ve managed to focus on this a bit, but perhaps not to my satisfaction.

As fine a place as any to spend the longest nights of winter (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

As fine a place as any to spend the longest nights of winter (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

This year’s solstice strikes me as one of profound solitude. The season is juxtaposed, as I knew it would be, against Thanksgiving, which we spent in far more populated places, with family, and most significantly, with Aly. Now, back home, we are surrounded by a deep silence, far from man made noises. As Michelle continues to work in town, my visits to Haines come less and less often. Solitude deepens with recent, further-isolating snow.

Lately, Michelle and I have been talking about the difference between solitude and loneliness. I seem to thrive on solitude, which keeps me from being lonely. We recently remembered an apt quotation from Mark Twain: “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” It appears that I am very comfortable with myself. I love company, but I also find solitude very satisfying.

In the tide of the seasons, is the Winter Solstice the ebb of light, or the flow of darkness? In the tide of human interaction, is this the ebb of companionship, or the flow of solitude? I seem to fall on the “flow” side of these dichotomies.

Sometime this evening, after dark has fallen, when the cabin will be warm and welcoming, we’ll mull some of our homemade red wine, and sit together in the twin glows of wood stove and Christmas tree.

Maybe we’ll talk about these things further. Or, perhaps we’ll sit in companionable silence, enjoying the solitude together.

The Winter Solstice on Lynn Canal, Alaska, 2013 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Winter Solstice on Lynn Canal, Alaska, 2013 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

6 Responses to “Solstice Solitude”

  1. Patricia says:

    Lovely photo!

    As mean and cynical as I am most of the year, I awoke this morning in full holiday sappy mode, so I will just tell you how much I love reading your blog.

    You might like a book called Solitude, it’s about a guy who went and lived on an island off the coast of Chile for a year.

  2. Linn Hartman says:

    Next year when you contemplate on the winter solstice you can think – That is Linn’s birthday -it will bring a whole new meaning to the day – Ha – Enjoy the day and the glass of wine.

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Happy birthday, Linn!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Patricia, thank you for letting us know how much you enjoy the blog, and congratulations on acheiving full holiday sappy mode. I’m a big advocate of giving into that one!

    I may have read Solitude, but if not, I’ll find it and read it.

  5. Eva Hensley says:

    Mark, Happy Winter Solstice to you and Michelle! And a very Merry Christmas too! Normally we spend time with friends who have a winter solstice gathering at their home and we walk our friends labyrinth which is located in the middle of her wild flower field. However, a good ole Midwest ice storm kept us home tonight. We welcome winter as a great time to enjoy solitude by our fireplace. It is a calm time and a great time for reflection. I thank you for your wonderful pictures and your blog. It is a highlight to read about you and your family.

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you Eva. Happy Winter Solstice and Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

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