Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy belated winter solstice! Occasionally we get around to plopping ourselves on a couch and taking a family picture. What a privilege to have this little family of mine. I realized that the old photo on our piano is 10 years old now! I mean, it makes sense… look at my giant kids!

This past year has been a whopper. I learned so much in the realm of relating to place- I hesitate to call it “farming” these days, because that’s hardly what happens anymore. At times it felt really intense, but I feel in myself that so much growth has happened. I’m realizing more and more that this is the consequence of commitment, you are changed by the relationships you decide to keep. Perhaps the measure of our connection is the measure of our growth?

This year I watched Jeff really grow into himself in new ways. He continues to be challenged by his role at work, and it’s amazing to see his commitment to his values in that context. He worked hard around the farm, too, and each year it takes more and more shape, in large part due to his efforts and his willingness to indulge my vision. What a lovely man he is! He also recently started dealing with some chronic pain (sciatica), which has been something we’ve both started to activate around in terms of how we approach our care for each other and ourselves. As we watch ourselves and our friends grow older, we see the ways that we can just do our best to stay mobile and healthy and open to change, and I see how those practices of mobility and wellness extend into emotional/spiritual realms- maybe even more than the physical? We can do our best, but sometimes life slams into you and you have to reckon with it… you get to see what you are made of.

I learned this lesson in a very real way in mid-November when my dad had a stroke and wasn’t able to use his right side anymore. That first week we were all in shock and pretty grief-stricken. My dad is so active, so ritually minded, so connected to his doings. But I continue to be really amazed by how productive grief can be. We all let ourselves feel, and even when my dad expressed his darkest and most hopeless thoughts in those early days, none of us felt inclined to fight him or pretend it wasn’t happening, we just expressed love and sat with the experience. I was and am so proud to be part of my family. We are really imperfect people and we have our dynamics, but when this tragedy landed on us I just saw the best in each of us, and I think my dad was deeply humbled by his community’s love for him. He spend a month in the hospital unable to do much for himself, and the nurses dubbed him “Mr. Popular” because he rarely went a day without several visitors. My mom was there many hours a day, my sisters and I came most days, my brother traveled home from NC for a few days and is coming again next month. He had swaths of friends come through, including a group of men who surrounded him once a week to hold an AA meeting.

He’s now at home with my mom and they are dealing with their new reality with a lot of grace. Again, I’m watching them grieve and be inundated with the reality of the situation. But also we are seeing the very best of them- their deep love for each other, my dad’s incredible diligence and determination, and their overall willingness to let life work on them and draw them closer to God.

I have so much to share about the experience of watching the phenomenon of this stroke. One of the things that sticks out to me at the moment, though, is that perspective is a powerful and really interesting thing. Who knew that watching my dad’s right thumb flick for the first time would have us all bursting into tears, full of gratitude? Yesterday I saw him pull himself up to a full stand, with the help of his OT. The feelings of absolute victory and pride and hopefulness around some of the tiniest of things… which, of course, turn out not to be tiny at all.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year. The kids have been lovely and so very themselves. Vera hit a lot of milestones. She got her first job, took driver’s ed, and just generally is so driven and interested in life and her own future. She’s also a very sought after babysitter (perks of being a homeschooler with more availability!), and she’s especially popular with little girls. They think she’s so cool, and they aren’t wrong. It’s awesome. She’s also become obsessed with crocheting, and mostly you’ll find her in her room listening to audiobooks and busting out little projects. She made herself a sweater!

Asa is goofy and too smart for his own good, as usual. He grew a lot this year, and has become a reliable annoyance (in an endearing kind of way) after we have just cleaned up all of the food and dishes from dinner “… I’m hungry, what can I eat?!” The answer, almost always, is “Just make yourself some eggs!” He continues to have a mind that gravitates towards all things computer, but you can still find him outside creating interesting forts and exploring or making music. He’s very sweet and still wants to snuggle with me on the couch every night. My mama heart is full of the bittersweet reality that the “kid phase” of parenting is nearly over here. Teenager/young adult parenting is pretty different, and definitely beautiful and challenging in its own way. But I’ll find myself feeling nostalgic and looking back at old photos more and more often.

Since deciding to celebrate the winter solstice years ago and to pay more attention to the wheel of the year, I’ve never liked the idea that the darkness is something to fight back. I see a lot about “making light” to combat this time of year, but I’m more interested in the question of why we need the shadow elements, the periods of dormancy. I see more and more how the hard and cold limits in life do their part to enable our creativity, our gratitude, our sense of meaning and belonging.


To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,

and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,

and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings


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