These Halcyon Solstice Days

CandlesThere is an old Greek myth about ‘halcyon days’. The idea springs from a story about the halcyon (from the kingfisher family), about which Aristotle has this to say:

‘The halcyon breeds at the season of the winter solstice. Accordingly, when this season is marked with calm weather, the name of “halcyon days” is given to the seven days preceding, as to as many following, the solstice … The halcyon is said to take seven days for building her nest, and the other seven for laying and hatching her eggs.’

These words are from Celtic psychologist and storyteller Dr Sharon Blackie. (Read her post here.)

Sharon goes on to describe her Solstice practice of sharing stories for these dark days – seven days before December 21st and seven days after, when Earth begins her slow turn to the light. I’m adopting her idea for personal use. These cold dark days are fecund days for the human soul – days for deep discernment. I intend to honor them by setting aside intentional time each day to listen to the Earth, to the Holy, to my soul. I wonder what will emerge. Will you join me?

Let’s Stop Comparing Ourselves to Trees.

It’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

You know what that means, right?

Yup, pumpkin spiced everything.

And also blog post after blog post about letting go. Relaxing into the dark. Transformation. Transition. Change. About how we should be like trees and gracefully let the dead things fall away.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. (See header image.)

And yet. We’re not trees.

Please stop comparing yourself to a tree.

Humans and trees diverged very early in life’s evolutionary journey. Humans went on to evolve a large brain, with a cerebral cortex that knows it’s housed in a body that will die, and so the mind fears. A lot.

Maybe trees have fears, too, when fall comes and they feel their dead leaves drop away. Maybe they resist, too, just like we do.

I’ve been exploring ways to navigate transitions more kindly. My kids are self-sufficient adults, so I’m transitioning from active parenting to empty nester. I’m actively exploring nature-based spirituality, so I’m transitioning from Episcopalian to who knows what. I’m an entrepreneur, so I’m transitioning from fitting into a defined job to being in charge of my own work. My body continues to age, so I’m transitioning from young-ish woman to juicy crone.

Dying and rising and doing it all over again comes pre-installed in Earthlings. All Earthlings. Trees. Rocks. Water. Ravens. Humans. Change is not optional.

I’m finding that knowing who I am, having a sense of my core identity, the essence of “me,” is helpful. Knowing and staying in touch with my heart is one key to sane cycling and changing.

Just as a tree’s identity remains when it stands bare to the winter winds, I will still be “me” when outer identitifiers (mom, teacher, Christian, young …) fall away.

My heart identity lives in my body.  It makes sense to me, then, that deeply knowing myself and living from my core starts with loving and paying attention to my body.

Who you are lives in your body. Deeply knowing yourself and living from your core starts with loving and paying attention to your body, in whatever form that takes for you. I suggest regular body scans, baths, movement, sweaty work, long walks – whatever feels delicious. “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” (Mary Oliver)

Be warned, though. Your body is wild. Paying attention to your body means feeling your feelings. It means sitting with your pain and your joy. Giving yourself the gift of self-compassion.

We are not trees. For humans, with these brains that scream fears night and day, it helps so much to know and trust our hearts. To know that our bodies tell the truth, while our minds often don’t.

When we know who we are, the stuff we cling to that isn’t ours anymore, perhaps never was ours, can fall away like last year’s leaves.

(Would you like to explore navigating the changes and seasons of your life with kindness? I offer a free discovery call. Click here for details.)


I Want Transformation and I Want It NOW.

The waiting part of transformation is HARD, at least for me. I want to just do the change, and do it quick. Unfortunately, that’s just not how transformation works. Unlike our get ‘er done culture, what happens in that chrysalis can’t be rushed. (See this previous post for more about change, transformation, and the difference between them. Today’s post goes deeper into #5, about the predictable pattern of change.)

My hypothesis is that the obligatory waiting phase is why I resist necessary transformations. I hate that in-between thing so much. (And if I haven’t done the grieving I need to do with any change, transformation pretty much stops.) All those messy feelings, when we just want to feel bright and shiny and good at life, right?

I’ve been finding these words helpful when I feel myself resisting the necessary waiting phase of transformation. It’s an excerpt from John O’Donohue’s blessing “For the Interim Time.”

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might become free

From all you have outgrown.


What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new,

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.


I love that the poet speaks of enduring faithfully. I love that he speaks of loosening roots and becoming free, and how he acknowledges that it’s a difficult and slow process to become new. Mostly I love that he describes the interim time as a time when our minds are being transfigured.

Stay present here and now, in your body. Spend time in nature, and pay attention to how this amazing Creation in which we are embedded actually works. A flower blossoms when it’s ready, and not a minute before. Hold your confidence. Allow your roots to loosen. Faithfully endure and allow your mind to be transfigured. You are becoming new, which is a holy enterprise.

Be faithful to your metamorphosis.

if you’d like to explore how I can help you navigate change and transformation, I offer a free 60-minute consultation. Fill out this form and we’ll set up a time.