Peak darkness at the Winter Solstice


For us in the northern hemisphere, since the Summer Solstice in June, the Sun has been on a waning trajectory, resulting in days gradually getting shorter and nights longer. Today, on the Winter Solstice, our journey through the darkness reaches its peak, the sun at its lowest point before beginning its new ascent towards peak light. Peak darkness is the time when we begin to ask “How much longer are these dark days going to last?” and even wonder if the darkness will continue forever. Of course, we know in our heads that the light will return, but our hearts have, by now, grown weary and doubtful. With the devastating news on Saturday of further lockdowns, cancelled Christmas plans and a troubling new virus variant causing havoc, I spent yesterday with the heavy sense of a deep and interminable darkness.

At the Winter Solstice, my blog would normally focus on celebrating the return of the light after the longest night. However, this year, as we grapple with a new wave of the Covid19 pandemic and all the restrictions, worry, hardship, distress and loss that come with it, I get a sense that we may need to dig deeper within ourselves to find the sparkle and magic of the festive season and “celebration” may not be the most appropriate word given the circumstances. Or is that just me feeling sorry for myself? Certainly, on a personal level, the prospect of not being with our children as planned this Christmas has taken the wind out of my sails and at the end of an incredibly challenging year, the darkness does not seem ready to recede yet! I know I am not alone in this situation as thousands of us will now not be able to be with family and friends this Christmastime. It has come as a terrible blow after many months of social distancing and lack of physical and social contact with the people we love. Whilst I understand the seriousness of the Covid19 crisis and it is right we all do our bit to protect each other, I also fear the consequences on our mental and emotional health and wellbeing of the pandemic and its associated distress, trauma and loss will be severe and long-lasting.

Forgive me for painting a grim picture so far and please bear with me as I explain my reasoning. It is no use denying how bleak and challenging the situation is or ignoring the anger, hurt, disappointment, sadness and fear we feel. These feelings are totally appropriate, a normal grief response to what is happening right now and they need to be felt. My upset, when I have shared it, has been met with a few well meaning but rather dismissive and unempathic reactions like “be grateful you have a fridge full of food, some people have nothing” or “your children will still be there after Christmas” or “how about offering your food out?” I do not see any value in replacing a negative by a positive just for the sake of it. That’s just covering it up; the negativity remains underneath, unchanged and potentially harmful when buried below our awareness because it makes us uncomfortable. Only by acknowledging and owning our feelings of grief can we move to a place of acceptance, hope and even joy; only by knowing the darkness can we see the light.

And here is the thing: the Winter Solstice is a pivot point when the darkness stops rising and the light of the Sun, at the beginning of its new cycle, returns to us once more, slowly but surely increasing in length. A powerful reminder that the darkest hour is just before dawn, the Winter Solstice gifts us with the hope, faith and determination we need to help us navigate our way through the dark times. From tomorrow, the tide turns and a new beginning emerges. What joy! And what relief!

We're not out of the woods - or the darkness - yet and at this point in the cycle, the Sun does not yet have the strength to sustain growth. Out in nature, the time between now and Imbolc at the beginning of February is the heart of Winter when the natural world hunkers down for a period of hibernation, stillness and rest. May this be an invitation for us to do the same, especially as the Covid19 crisis intensifies with a faster spreading virus strain and we face further restrictions and lockdowns. May we use this time to slow down, reflect and listen, to be quiet and still to align ourselves with the energy of the season that brings a new direction and new possibilities. This ultimately helps us connect with ourselves and meet our deepest wisdom so we may emerge, in Spring, renewed and bursting with ideas and the energy to bring them to fruition. I have decorated the house with candles and fairy lights and these little displays of Solstice joy and peace have gone a long way to soothe my unsettled heart and nourish my soul at this difficult time.

Happy Winter Solstice, friends! May you find the light, your inner light, that guides you in the darkness. May it give you the strength to know your darkness and the hope for a better tomorrow. I'll end with these words by Victor Hugo: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”


  • Hi Maryline, Zoe very kindly sent me your last 2 blogs around the Solstice and mid winter. I have to say I really enjoyed them and your thoughts and feelings chimed with mine about the winter. Myself, I love all the seasons for all their variety and individualism, not least winter, which in common with your words, is a time to slow down, keep warm, eat hearty and warming food and generally hibernate, mentally if not literally. I have always loved this time of year for those reasons, the cold short days, the stillness and silence. So at odds with our own behaviour which around Christmas time is frantic, stressful and completely out of balance with that of the natural world around us. It just shows how disconnected we have become from nature as a race. I hope you have had an enjoyable Christmas, even if it wasn't the one you had planned. None of have managed that I think, but it has been lovely in a very different way. Keep up the good work, I look forward to your next post and thank you for the card, such a lovely idea, we really love it and will plant it soon. Seasons greetings from Guy and Juli xx

    Posted on       By Guy Levy      

    • Thank you, Guy, for reading the blog and taking the time to leave a comment. It's lovely to connect with you on here. I am glad that my writing resonated with you. All best to you and Juli xx

      Posted on       By Maryline      

  • Thank you for another wonderful blogpost Maryline. Your writing has created a space for me to be still and appreciate the graduality (if that is even a word!) of change.

    Posted on       By Liz Jeffries      

    • Thank you for reading and writing your lovely response, Liz. I get what you mean by "graduality", a real invitation to slow right down and be in the moment. All best.

      Posted on       By Maryline      

  • I totally agree with you about acknowledging the dark times of grief, anger, loss, upset. The dawn will come and we will know it because we have been in the darkness beforehand. I hope we can all find bits of comfort and times of joy in these bleak, but still beautiful days.

    Posted on       By Jane Saunders      

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jane. May you find joy and comfort too this festive season. Best wishes.

      Posted on       By Maryline      

  • Hallo Maryline So sorry that yours and Peter's plans have been blown away. You will have gone to so much trouble to host the children's visit and I am enthralled by your decorative efforts - very clever. My niece, who has no children, had planned a grand event with her husband's family but all now out the window and she, like you, is absolutely devastated. She is a great cook and loves entertaining. Peter and I have to be on our own although the original idea was for us to join Caroline in Laverstock, so for many people this Christmas will not be a celebration but an unfortunate milestone along life's way. We look forward to being vaccinated and re-joining the human race once again! Best wishes to you both. Stay safe, keep calm and carry on (as they say). Sheila

    Posted on       By Sheila Mills      

    • Sheila, thank you for your kind words. I am sorry that you will also be on your own this Christmas. What a year!! Happy birthday to Peter in January, a special one indeed! Best wishes

      Posted on       By Maryline