Rest & Replenish
Writing with the Seasons - December 2021, #3
Welcome to ‘Writing with the Seasons,’ a collection of writing prompts, ideas and inspiration that follow the rhythms of the natural world as the year unfolds. Everyone who booked a place at the recent Write & Shine December Festival received these weekly dispatches in December 2021.
This week brought winter solstice. The longest night, the shortest day. From now, the days become lighter. It may be cold outside, the news may be disheartening, but we have a sign of hope: the light is returning.
Solstice means ‘sun standing still.’ It’s when one of the earth’s poles is at maximum tilt from the sun. From Ancient Egypt to the Druids, the solstice is viewed by many cultures and spiritual traditions as an auspicious time. A moment to gather and feast, to be with loved ones and celebrate the movement from darkness to light. We’re part of a long lineage of people who marked and celebrated this time of year.
Perhaps you have your own solstice rituals, or maybe you’ve never considered it. Either way, this juncture can be a valuable reminder of earth’s relationship to the sun and how our lives are shaped by the seasons.
The shift in the light is subtle. We can’t emerge from the darkness too swiftly or we are blinded. So while the days lengthen, we can use the gentle change as a prompt to pause and reflect. To rest and replenish, just as nature does.
Try this: Many people use the winter solstice to consider the year gone by and look to the future. Take five minutes for this short intention-setting exercise:
1) What do you want to leave behind with the old year?
2) What are your hopes and wishes for the new year?
Think about these in relation to your writing, and your life, too. What are you already starting to dream about? Reading more? Rising early each day? Moving your body more regularly? What will help you rest? To replenish? Be clear and specific about what you’d like to draw towards you.
Alice Walker said, “You don’t always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that’s plenty.” What does ‘just being’ look like to you? It feels quite radical! Writer Jocelyn K. Glei has a similar thought. She asks, “Who are you without all the doing?” We’re encouraged by society to be disciplined and get things done, to produce and show others the ways we are successful.
Both Walker and Glei pose a tough but useful question. If we let go, if we let some hours go, especially during the festive holiday, can we release tension, find calm, and allow creative ideas to flow?
On a similar theme, Virginia Woolf wrote: ‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life.’ Her thought here is that calmness has to be found in reality, rather than separateness. Socialising can bring energy and insights, looking at old photographs or letters can too. This time of year, whether you’re with family, meeting friends or spending time alone, are there ways you can cultivate peacefulness while still engaging in the world?
The Japanese practice of ‘shinrin-yoku’ can be loosely translated as ‘forest bathing.’ It’s a form of relaxation cultivated by immersing yourself in the atmosphere of peaceful green spaces. The idea is, as Dr Qing Li notes, ‘to take in the forest through your senses.’ To move through a park slowly and meditatively, while focusing on the surroundings, perhaps noticing the shape of the trees or listening for the birds of the season.
Writing prompt: Tuck your notebook or a folded piece of paper in your pocket and take it with you for your own forest bath. If you don’t have green space nearby, perhaps stroll along water, or a quiet street with trees. Walk at a leisurely pace. Allow yourself a generous amount of time. Let nature recharge you as you walk. Then pause, and write filling two sides of paper describing the experience of being held by and connected to the natural world.
I wish you a calm, creative and restful end to the year, and all good things for the New Year.
Further wintertime inspiration
Jocelyn K. Glei hosts a mindfulness and creativity podcast called Hurry Slowly.
Virginia Woolf’s thoughtful essay on walking, women and creativity ‘Street Haunting’ is one of our ‘Wintertime Reads’ selection on Write & Shine’s Bookshop page.
You might enjoy this short article on the benefits of forest bathing by Dr Qing Li and also his book ‘How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’.
Writing with the Seasons is brought to you by Write & Shine, a programme of morning writing events and online courses.