The still point of the turning year. The longest night. “Solstice,” in its Latin origins, literally means “the sun stops.”
There is magic in that moment of stasis.
When we ride on a swing, the higher we go the slower we go, until that brief ecstatic moment when we hang suspended before descending again.
The dance of Sun and Earth is like that. The Solstices, summer and winter, are like the peak moments of the swing. The light changes more slowly as it approaches its shortest or longest day, hovers for a moment at the Solstice, then picks up speed as it moves toward the Equinoxes, when the days and nights are equal. Just as the swing descending moves fastest as it skims its closest point to Earth.
Howard Thurman, a beloved friend and teacher to me, was Dean of the Chapel at Boston University when I was a student there. In one of his sermons, he told a story about being a boy in Florida, fishing in a small boat in the ocean. He described how his line would pull taut, drawn out to sea with the outgoing tide. Then it would suddenly go slack. His buoy would rock on the waves for a short while, until the line swung slowly around to pull toward shore as the tide turned.
One of my Sufi teachers, guiding us in a breathing meditation, said, “Between the inhale and the exhale, realize. Between the exhale and the inhale, realize.”
Swing, seasons, tide, breath—all move with this rhythm.
As we enter the still point of the longest night, may we pause to receive that moment of stasis and open to its gifts.
T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”