Today is the winter solstice which marks the beginning of winter, the darkest day of the year and the hope of lighter days ahead. I am celebrating the solstice with some quiet time today. I’ll stretch myself in yoga, take some long walks and inhale the cold, crisp air. The pets are celebrating the solstice with some extra long naps.

The New York Times had a nice article on the history of the solstice that is worth a read if you are so inclined. I like the idea of having a winter solstice gathering – a celebration with loved ones of the end of dark days and beginning of light ahead. I haven’t quite figured out that celebration yet, so instead I’ve been preparing for the end of autumn and beginning of winter in a different way.

It began with waking up in a panic a few weeks ago. I realized the busy-ness of school has kept me too preoccupied from the more important things in my life. For months I have longed to spend time with my grandmother up in Portland, but time was always escaping me. My winter break from school loomed on the horizon, so I called her up the next day and made plans to paint with her during that first week of my break.

She is a landscape painter who became an artist in her early forties. She had suffered a loss and turned to the canvas for comfort. Over the last forty-five years, she has developed into a wonderful artist who works mostly with acrylics now. Her favored medium for most of her painting time was oil, but she has experience with it all.

We spent the better part of the week with each other in her studio as she gave me painting lessons. It felt good to just sit in silence with each other for long periods of time, with just the sound of brushes on canvas. She worked on smaller paintings while I tackled a landscape of my own with oils.

The little oak woodland I painted has become my marker of the winter solstice this year. It was a peaceful time with my grandmother. We chatted or we were quiet, but the painting continued. Time just stopped for me that whole week. I had time to pause.

She sent me home with boxes of painting supplies and I am hopeful that this will blossom into a new hobby for me. I’m entering winter feeling very calm, relaxed and centered. Things will get crazy and hectic again, as they always do. I’ll never forget the long pause I took with her this year though, as the last days of autumn faded into winter.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson