18 December 2011

Dark Days, Light Heart

We are only a few days away from the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year, which also means we are well into the holiday season.  In America, the Christmas holiday season officially begins with Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, and that offers sales galore for shoppers.  In Italy, the Christmas season officially begins the day of Immaculate Conception, December 8. The streets are lit with Christmas lights and decorations. Christmas festivals fill piazzas. Stores here also are busy with holiday shoppers.  The hustle-bustle of the holiday season has taken hold.

This time of year can be emotionally challenging and stressful for many of us. Many people can grow disconsolate, even despondent.  I am one. I find the holiday season to be especially trying, as my family and long-standing friends are scattered around the world with the greater majority in California.  I am in Florence, Italy.  My newer friends here have mostly all returned to their "homes" wherever those might be. An Italian family has yet to adopt me.  As a result, this time of year can feel very dark, just like the winter solstice.

In a time of gift-giving and romance and great cheer and spirits, it is unnerving to be alone and apart no matter how beautiful and memorable your surrounding environment.  Florence is that beautiful and memorable.  The choice is clear, even stark:  We can focus on what we do not have or lack rather than what we do have. 

I choose to be grateful for what I do have this season.  Though my situation is not exactly how I envisioned it would be this year at this age, I make the most of what it is.  In addition to my general good health is where I live.  And I have work.  I moan and whine about having to work. (At my core, I am a lazy slug.)  But having work not only earns some money, it keeps me involved in my career and it makes me accountable to someone somewhere and helps keep me out of trouble.  I have people in my life that matter to me, and I know I matter to my family and friends.  This year I stick to my routines and rituals, which ebb and flow. However, the last couple months I am in the flow.  It feels good to do some of the things that support my emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

In only a few days we will be on the other side of the solstice, and the days will begin to get lighter and brighter and so will the spirit.  During some of the down time during the holidays, I make it a practice to reflect on the year now past and map out where I want to go and what I want to accomplish for the year ahead.  I note my specific and clear intentions on paper.  I look forward to that project, which requires my attention and diligence and is positive in direction and result.

What holiday / year end / new year rituals and practices do you engage in?

02 December 2011

Along the Arno River, Florence, Italy

An everyday autumn day with light so spectacular I have to be outdoors.

View of the Duomo taken near Ponte alle Grazie, Otrarno
Ponte Vecchio

Santa Croce 
I admit this foto was not taken from alongside the Arno, but I like the light.