Week 25/2023: Winter solstice

Wintering doesn’t come easy

Week of 19 June 2023

I like the idea of celebrating winter solstice in some way but it never seems to happen.

The fault is entirely mine, of course. I don’t plan anything, and I certainly don’t like to go outside, which is what the traditional mid-winter festivities seem to require. Bonfires and the like. I function exceptionally poorly in the cold. I feel like I spend so much energy trying to not be cold, I have very little left to do anything else.

Self-critical me would say I’m being a big sook, and that I should  suck it up and get out and do something.

Self-caring me would tell me to listen to myself and, if I don’t have capacity to do anything, then I should take care of myself and rest.

Who’s right?

Who knows?

The chickens don’t like the cold either, and I reckon they’re more sensible than me about what to do.

Five chickens huddled together along a chicken wire fence
Huddling chickens

They say it’s time to rest.

The closest I got to acknowledging winter solstice this year was (apart from complaining about how cold I was), perhaps, reading the book Wintering by Katherine May  over the last couple weeks. And, while on the surface, this book is about the season of winter, it is also about caring for and repairing ourselves during seasons of our life that are dark, no matter what time of year it is.

The cover of a book called Wintering by Katherine May, with blue and orange graphics on the sea and sky

(Katherine used to blog under the name Betty and it was for her who I—shameless plug—once wrote a blog post about a kids’ TV show, which is still, nine years later, my most popular post.)

She bases the book over the English winter or, more accurately, the period leading into and out of winter, as well as the depths of the season itself, so it covers six months of the year.

Relevant to now, Katherine writes about celebrating the winter solstice at Stonehenge. She describes where everyone acknowledges they’ve “turned the year” as light begins to come back to the world “after months of encroaching darkness”.

It does, but so incrementally, I never notice it. And, fun fact, sunrise actually gets fractionally later over the ten or so days following the solstice.

Katherine also writes of taking cold ocean swims in winter, which makes me thinks of Hobart’s own winter solstice event—well the one that gets the most raised eyebrows—the Dark Mofo nude solstice swim.

The closest I’ve ever got to that event is getting stuck in morning traffic going past the beach!

A long shot of a beach in the morning with a small white marquee and a few people standing on the sand. There are trees in the foreground partially obscuring the view
View from the bus passing Long Beach after the solstice swim

I’m slowly considering the possibility of doing some kind of cold water activity to try and build up my cold tolerance (and one of my physiotherapists said it actually is very good for some of the issues I’ve been having) but I’m not there yet! The cold and me, we are not friends.

Katherine echoes my own desire to stay inside and stay warm in winter. She writes (page 238):

In the high summer, we want to be outside and active; in winter, we are called inside, and here we attend to all the detritus of the summer months, when we were too busy to take the necessary care. Winter is when I reorganise my bookshelves, and when I read all the books that I acquired in the previous year and failed to actually read; it is also the time when I re-read beloved novels, just for the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old friends. In summer I want big, splashy ideas and trashy novels, devoured in a garden chair, or perched on one of the wave-breaks on the beach.

In winter I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight; slow, spiritual reading; a re-enforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries: the muffled quiet of book-stacks and the scent of old pages and dust. In winter, I can spend hours in silent pursuit of a half-understood concept, or a detail of history. There is nowhere else to be, after all.

And, while I don’t necessarily spend winter with my books, I’d like to. I have a lot of books I’ve acquired and failed to actually read . . .

I can relate to Katherine’s feeling of being “called inside” rather than being outside and active. It’s why, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I don’t Winterfeast and I celebrate Nofo rather than Dark Mofo.

So for me, the solstice passed quietly and almost unregarded. I could have gone to the beach and made sunrise photos but I didn’t. Instead, I looked at the sky from my front door and reminded myself I need to ask the neighbours to cut back their feral plant because it’s getting in the way of my photos. (It’s also come so far into my yard it’s tapping on my side window. It’s time for a trim . . .)

A blue morning overlooking the river and the bay beyond. In the background are hills
Winter Solstice morning sky

The only notable thing was one of my Twitter people said their chickens start laying again at the winter solstice. “Mine don’t,” I declared, only to find the very next day, an egg from one of the young hens.

My left hand holding a dark brown speckled chicken egg
Winter solstice egg. It’s a thing!

Maybe, they do.

Week 25 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

In April 2020, I had my six-monthly hair cut appointment booked in. However, even though my hairdresser was still open during the months of covid safety precautions, I decided to cancel it.

After months of thinking about it, about three weeks ago I made an appointment to finally get something done about my hair, which had gotten somewhat out of control after almost four years.

The back of a woman's head with long, very uneven and ragged blonde hair that desperately needs a trim
This is what my hair looked like after almost four years of neglect

I wondered if my hairdresser would even remember me! While he didn’t recognise me through my N-95 mask, he did remember me and was delighted to have me back.

We had some fun on Saturday.

The back of a woman's head with blonde hair with copper tints falling below her shoulders
That’s better!

What did I learn this week?

I learned that the wreck of the Titanic was discovered as a result of a search for two sunken navy submarines. The guy (Robert Ballard) had developed the submersible device he needed to find Titanic but needed funding; the navy was interested but wanted him to locate the subs so they could find out what happened to the nuclear reactors onboard. If he found them and if there was any time left, he could do what he wanted, which he did. He used information he’d gathered about the effects of ocean currents on sinking debris to use the subs to then locate Titanic.

What I’m reading this week

  • A Twentieth Century Life by Edith Emery
  • The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks
  • Wintering by Katherine May
  • Body, Breath and Being by Carolyn Nicholls

Habit tracker

  • Morning ritual: (Goal = 7): 7
  • Move (preferably before 3 pm) (Goal = 7): 6
  • Three times a week writing habit (3): 0
  • The Little Red Writing Book exercises (Goal = 5): 0
  • Listen to writing podcasts (Goal = 2): 0
  • Physiotherapy exercises (at least 4/5) (Goal = 7): 7
  • Shut my computer down before 9.15 (Goal = 5): I lost track of this. I think it was only two or three nights.
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