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Although we don’t live in a polar area, winter’s shorter days don’t excite or inspire me. My least favorite day of the year is the first day of winter–the day of the year with the least amount of daylight–December 21.

This year I didn’t want to dread the day, so I decided that starting a week before the winter solstice I would do something creative every day leading up to December 21. Then, on the solstice, I would keep my phone off, not turn a computer/TV/screen on, not leave home, keep the wood stove burning, and make a big dinner.

My efforts at turning this dark time of year into one sparking with creativity were semi-successful. I wrote some poetry, painted with walnut oil for the first time, made a wreath from evergreen branches in our yard and adorned it with (empty) honeycomb and feathers from our girls (bees and chickens, respectively), and I stayed home. However, I did not make a feast and I had to keep my phone on. My husband’s sister has been battling stomach cancer for a little over a year and we got a call the day before the solstice that she was close to the end. He drove to Tennessee, about a five-hour drive from where we are in North Carolina, and I stayed behind since we didn’t expect to find pet care at the last-minute just before the holiday.

mandala with walnut oil

Painting with black walnut oil.

The solstice remained a dark day on many levels. I noticed both the sunrise and sunset were plainly white. No color. I came across something on social media that day that quoted a writer (I can’t remember the right person to cite) who described the sky at this time of year as a “bleached sky.” I thought that was the perfect description. This battle of light and dark came out of nature, and my husband’s sister passed away on Christmas Eve, the day before her 48th birthday.

As the days slowly start stretching longer, it’s easy to find comfort in the growing light. It’s hard to fully appreciate it though, having this huge loss. I’m thinking of more ways to move through the thicket of “winter blues” and I have a few things in mind. The new “creative week” tradition leading up to the solstice was healing in a way that could not have been predicted. I plan to book-end winter with another creative week leading up to the vernal equinox. If you’d like to join me and want something to look forward to this winter, sign up for my newsletter for writers and I’ll give you daily prompts/updates during the close of winter in March.

Also, I’d love to hear how you handle the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For me, beyond seasons, I am making daily efforts to live a nature-centered life. I feel more and more that an ecological lifestyle allows me the most mental space to write and create.

Wishing you a bright winter and a happy new decade.