Winter Solstice 2017: Darkness and Light

Posted on Dec 20, 2017 in Music, Nature, Seasonal Messages

The last few years I’ve gotten into the habit of putting out photographs in my living room of those near me who have died during the year. Their faces greet me each day as I go about my morning yoga; they smile at me every evening on my return from work. I leave them out for family celebrations, visits from friends, and condominium board meetings. Each is an object lesson, a saint of sorts, a model in living. I contemplate them and then, eventually, I let them go.

Archeologists say that the oldest human rituals revolve around death. They provide a vessel for transition and grief; they demarcate the boundaries of the living and the dead, this world and the other world. Christmas is a particularly hard season for anyone who is bereaved.

This year there are two portraits on my mantle: one of an aunt who was a traveller and a reader, who lived on the family farm into her nineties and whose curiosity about the world I admired; the other of a woman half her age, a co-worker of mine, also an independent thinker, a brilliant visionary, who struggled with self-acceptance and, in the end, took her own life. Both are a witness to me; both are teachers. As with all human beings, both carried struggle and joy in their journey, darkness and light.

In their origin, Christmas carols were part of the people’s rites, going from house to house and singing in exchange for treats; they were not part of the official religious observance. Many are stories of peace and conflict, gift and loss: the contradictions of life held in tension. At the centre of most Christmas music is the image of the holy family and I would argue all families. There is birth but there is also a foreshadowing of suffering, the suffering that comes with growing in this world. The parents have such hopes. The innocent babe becomes a child, becomes an adult. Makes choices, learns or does not learn what is needed to love, suffers, and sometimes dies too young.

I have come to think that this is the meaning of the holy: the blood, the bone, the breath, the unique story that binds each of us to the soul of the world. All of it, Mystery.


  1. Barbara Roy
    December 21, 2017

    As ever your writings are touching and thought provoking.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.Best wishes to you and your family for the Holiday season and beyond!

  2. Jano Thibodeau
    December 21, 2017

    with gratitude for the sharing in your blog Audrey… I read, I hear, I cry, in acceptance of my own life now moving into an old woman ~ birth/ death / birth/ death such is my life in the great circle of the anthropomorphic being, SHE regenerate …

    I appreciate your deep, profound sharing on your blog, life and death is about the whole cosmos in the process of life and death ~

    I am dying now after 5 years at the VIU working with clay defining creating more of my creative spirit ~ I made the choice to let go and to birth a new self ~ to take good care of getting older and less capable of dodo more ~ now i have to dodo less and take time to go walking outside by the sea and contemplate the beauty of Nature ~
    thank you Audrey ~ light is more as Sol returns slowly to birth more light ~ jano

  3. Linda Bumstead
    January 7, 2018

    Dear Audrey, So much to think about in your latest blog. I’m not good at dealing with loss, even the thought of loss.
    I hope the New Year is going well for you.

  4. Audrey Margaret Brooks
    January 22, 2018

    I haven’t replied to this, as I have grief at waiting for my dear friend, Verna, to finish her long and painful journey to a peaceful death. AFter 10 years of remission, her cancer has spread to her bones and liver. Yet she continues now for three more years, to be her sweet self. It is hard to watch her and know that her loss will affect me so deeply. She is a poet, and a lover of humanity.
    Thank you for sharing the way you honour your friends and relatives who have died. I wanted Verna to publish her poetry before she dies, but she has no energy to do this. So her son and I have had a conversation about doing this, but he is still holding on to his mother, and has not accepted that she will not be able to help put her work into a book. Hugs, the other Audrey