Reflecting on 2020 in the Season of Nourishing Darkness

squirrel in the tree
Friend Squirrel outside my window.

When I woke this morning and opened my blinds, I was surprised by bare branches. Overnight, a windstorm stripped almost all the golden-russet leaves off the Japanese maple tree who lives just on the other side of my windowpane. The bird feeders were swaying like crazy in the wind, the chickadees and sparrows struggling to hold on. Of course, I had to step out into it all, before coffee!

I had a momentary clenching of the heart when I desperately missed the windstorms on the island where I used to live — the salt spray kicking up, the roar of wind and waves combining to make one big whoooooosh. Then I breathed in deeply, sent my own roots down into this earth right here, and gave the little maple tree a caress. I’m learning to root myself here, by this pond, on the edge of these woods. I thought I already knew all about loss and grief and belonging — but this past year, this year of 2020? I’ve ripened into a deeper acceptance and a knowing beyond language that sorrow and joy are not separate but walk hand in hand every day.

Season of Nourishing Darkness

Fireplace at Heron House
Beach stone fireplace on the island.

This is the time of year in the northern hemisphere when we settle in and snuggle into the growing darkness, the short days and long nights. We wrap the dark around us like a cape. We recognize it as a time and space for gestation, rest, laying fallow, reflection, dreaming. I’ve said for many years that the hallmarks of the Yuletide season are the twin companions of solitude and community — how we need and crave both!

This year we are craving community perhaps more than ever. Yet most of us (I hope) will choose to stay home, either alone or with members of our household or trusted pods. Community will happen over the ethers of videos calls, messaging, social media. And community will happen in the wild (even the urban wild) — with trees, wind, garden, birds, squirrels, deer.

Reflection Questions for the Year Gone By

Oats / Madre of Water from the Herbcrafter's Tarot
Oats / Madre of Water from the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

I invite you to snuggle up in a comfy chair by a hearth fire or flickering candles and wrap yourself up in a blanket. Make yourself a cup of steaming tea and pick up a notebook and pen and perhaps a pack of tarot cards too. I have a few journal questions for you. Choose the ones that grab your attention. Just start writing. Don’t edit yourself. Let your thoughts and emotions spill onto the paper. If you’re stuck, you can turn over a tarot card to spark an idea and go on from there.

  • What do you know now that you didn’t know in January of 2020?
  • What positive things happened because of sequestering during the pandemic that would not have otherwise happened?
  • Did your commitment to social justice change in any way after the death of George Floyd and the uprising that followed? How did it change, if it did?
  • (Mostly for white people): Did you learn anything about racism that you didn’t know before? How is this new understanding changing the way you live your life, if it is?
  • What hurt the most this year? What were your biggest losses?
  • What have you learned about your own resilience?
  • What was the greatest blessing of 2020 for you personally?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • What gives you hope or keeps you moving forward?
  • What is the larger, deeper meaning you find in all that happened in 2020, both externally and internally?

These are big, weighty questions. You are probably not going to want to tackle all of them in one setting. Perhaps you can make time for one a day or even one a week for the next ten weeks, which will take us right up to the feast of Brigid around February 1st.

You might also want to choose a few questions (maybe 3 or 4) for a council circle either with your household members or with friends on a video circle call. If you decide to do this, I highly recommend you follow the methodology of the Circle Way and especially their resources for hosting online circles.

Dream deep with these questions, friends. Let them work on you from within.

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on 2020 in the Season of Nourishing Darkness

  1. Joanna, your writing is so calming and it reaches down into the nurturing and wild places of my spirit. Thank You. It is so true what you say about the need for both solitude and community. I find myself needing a lot more evening alone time since the pandemic began, after my partner heads to bed than ever before. And I have tossed networking organizations to the wind and focused on creating my Online Reiki community and reconnecting with my SoulCollage(r) community. Thank you for the re-run of your newsletter. Many blessings to you as we all look forward to a brighter, healthier, and more ease in the coming year. Kim GC

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