Photo of Lake Nipissing by Meghan Clout

By: Arlene Slocombe, Executive Director
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We recognize the ability to rest, hibernate, and restore is inaccessible for so many around the world right now, including our relations experiencing a genocide in Palestine as well as others facing similar atrocities. Through this time of darkness, we hope everyone can find a glimmer of light in these ponderings to sustain you as we continue to work to confront the harms of our present reality and to address the root causes of environmental & social injustices for a better tomorrow.

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In the hectic pace of our day-to-day world, I am grateful for the coldness and the darkness of this time of the year. It reminds me about the seasonal fluxes and the instinctual bodily reminders that we — as humans — are not outside of the rhythms of the natural world. We are a part of it.

As we bustle around in the frenetic pace, there are ancestral remnants of pushing through what has become a busy season in our modern world: the big feast of bulking up before a time of deep rest. Despite all evidence to the contrary, this time of year we may find ourselves responding to a deep instinct to gather and collect, and then go deep and dark.

There is a story, a song, we sing to the little ones: the story of how brother groundhog in the darkening days eats and eats and eats to store up enough fat for the deep sleep. This story is alive within us and we have the ability to shape the narrative when we listen, when we attune.

The current paradigms of our world has this story playing out in a different way. We see the deeply harmful systems of consumerism and capitalism — to consume and consume and consume at the expense of both our earth body and the human bodies we inhabit. Through the lens of environmental justice, we begin to understand that the impacts of this rampant overconsumption most often harms black, Indigenous, and people of colour whose histories and lived realities of oppression are woven into the fabrics of colonialism and capitalism.

Our reality can feel dark, but perhaps there’s another way we can relate to the darkness, another story to tell…

How do we tell the story of the need to descend into the darkness and the emergence on the other side that supports the drive for life? The return of the light follows the movement into darkness. It is congruent with the web of life.

With the tilt of the earth that brings us this welcome respite of darkness at this time of year — this point of being the farthest away from the sun in a time of deep rest and internal integration — this blue plant knows how to respond.

And herein might lie our other story.

Resources for Rethinking writes, “What’s happening now ….is amazing and unique. As the days and, particularly, nights get colder, so does the water, until it reaches 4oC. Then, usually in the dead of a calm, cold night, the surface water begins to get colder. And as it does, instead of getting denser and sinking, like almost every other liquid in the universe that we know about, it gets lighter and remains at the surface until, at 0oC, even lighter than the water around it, it freezes.

“Why does it do this?” you may well ask. Well, it has to do with water’s molecular structure and polarity. Because it’s polar, each molecule has positive bits and negative bits, which want to stick to each other and to other things. That’s why water is sticky — put your hand in some and then try to shake it off. Water molecules slip and slide around and stick to each other with a great deal of disorder until they freeze into an open lattice, or crystal structure that pushes each molecule away from any other. Since the ‘holes’ created are basically filled with nothing, ice is less dense than water. That ordering process starts at 4oC.

Well, so what? This totally ordinary, yet absolutely remarkable event may be responsible for life as we know it — that’s what. Imagine if ice sank. Lakes would freeze from the bottom up, and sometimes freeze solid… Bottom-dwelling life could not exist in these areas, and life in the cold water above would be quite different, as would our climate.”

What does this miracle of ice mean? Well if life as we knew it froze and sank — there would be no life on this planet. If there was no hibernation, there could be no emergence.

So how do we learn to be like water?

As we build movements towards water justice, climate justice, and social justice, our desire is really to support life. When things get cold and dark instead of solidifying and sinking, can we shape-shift and rise like water, becoming ice and allowing life to continue? Can we stay connected to each other during this time and remained informed, supporting the actions needed at home and as allies? Can we stay connected to the innate wisdom of the Earth as we move with Her through the seasons?

As we seek to embrace this lesson in the solstice, the ice is only holding this new pattern until the warmth of the sun returns for another cycle. As December 22 begins, the soft tilt of the earth will also begin to welcome back the sun’s warmth until it reaches its climax again in June. And then around and around we go — holding on and staying tethered to the rhythms of this blue planet.

Store up, go deep and dark, and rest — but don’t sink. We will rise again!