Yesterday, we dug ourselves out of the first snow storm of the season. As usual, it wasn't as bad as predicted by the sky-is-falling weather forecasters. But it was plenty of snow nevertheless and, while I don't usually like the snow because of the hard work of clean-up, the house did look beautiful surrounded by an expanse of clean white. The sky was light blue, the deciduous trees bare but for the snow covering their branches, the house cast in a glow of reflected sunlight off the unblemished snow.
How ironic that this snow came fast on the Winter Solstice today. As the days in the northern hemisphere begin to lengthen and the promise of brighter days takes hold, we can be happy that the Holly King (the mythical figure of winter) will gradually lose hold and give way to the Oak King. The winter snows will ultimately melt, nourishing the roots of plants that will flourish once again in the springtime. The buds are set, waiting to break forth once the sunlight and warmth are intense enough. It's precisely the promise of life reborn that so many cultures throughout human history have celebrated at this, literally the darkest time of year.
This is a metaphor of sorts for all the trials we face: It so often is indeed darkest before a new cycle of life can resume. While we don't always win every battle, the moments when things seem hopeless are often only temporary and but a prelude to new victories. This can often be the case when one loses a job, when one is diagnosed with cancer, or when one suffers a set-back in the fight for social justice for all people (gay and straight alike), all things I've experienced firsthand over the years. But hope renews just as surely as the days lengthen. So there is a lesson in this time of year when so much of the world celebrates the renewal of life and the resurgence of hope for the future. Even on the darkest longest night, the human spirit is strong enough to dream and work for brighter and longer days to come.
Happy Winter Solstice