The nature of sunrise is to be unrealistically bright, full of promise and always recurring

Gray light seeps into the darkness. Ice glistens at the coldest hour of the day.

A breath--too cold but bringing a whisper of freedom.

Then a ribbon of brilliance along the horizon.

Creative Commons image by Nicolas Gent

Creative Commons image by Nicolas Gent

A quickened heartbeat.

Finally color--first pink, then peach and gold, spilling ever more rapidly, like cascading joyful music, like the chatter of children and birds, like waterfalls. The sky lights up.

Ice crystals glitter and sparkle. Every branch is outlined in light, the earth bright and crackling. Frozen mist curls in the low places, painting pictures of another world. The first footprints are precious but also a desecration. There's an urge to dance but cold muscles refuse.

This is sunrise in winter. The night is long and the sun is unnaturally, painfully bright. The nature of sunrise is to be too bright.

It is also its nature to be full of promise. There is a sense at the hour of daybreak that all things are possible. Goodwill and hope come swiftly, especially if there's coffee. 

We promise ourselves that things will go well today. We plan work and play, eager to cram in more than can possibly be accomplished in the hours ahead. Like New Year's resolutions, the plans of dawn are full of conviction and vigor before the lazy slug-a-beds of duties and troubles reawaken a little later.

This moment of fresh enthusiasm is necessary to the day, just as it is necessary to the year.

In some circles, it has become fashionable to ridicule New Year's resolutions. "We're all adults here after all. We know that people don't really improve their habits. They start but they don't last." 

It's the nature of sunrise to be too bright, too enthusiastic and ultimately illusive. 

And yet, there is one thing that "us grown-ups" tend to forget. It is also the nature of sunrise to be endlessly recurring. Sunrise may be just one moment and it's hope may be fleeting.

But it always comes back. And that is not fleeting.

That endures.

People don't improve their habits in one sunrise or one New Year's resolution. But they do in a hundred sunrises or a thousand. 

Five years ago, I started to change my habits. I got up early to do spiritual practice and meditation. At first it only happened sometimes. I tried to get up too early and greedily get many other things done before the children woke up and the lack of sleep brought me to my knees. 

I sprinted and faltered--for months at a time. I started again and again.

Now I have been getting up just a half hour early for three years. I've missed a few days due to acute illnesses but I can count those on my fingers.

These past three years have been among the hardest I've lived through, due to circumstances beyond my control. I don't know how I would have made it this far without those early morning moments of peace. 

I am deeply thankful for sunrises, particularly that they reliably return and never abandon me. 

Blue Moon / Imbolc wishes

One of our family traditions for Imbolc (February 2) is to write wishes on slips of paper and put them into a wish jar for the year. First, we pull out last year's wishes to see if any of them have come true, and then we drop in new ones. It's surprising how sometimes the wildest wishes do manifest themselves in some way.

We make a point of going beyond "realistic wishes." When you wish, wish in full. This is what wishes are for and it matters. Imbolc is a special time for wishes and for prophesy. The full moon is also a magical time for wishes and a blue moon may have particular potency. 

This year I have decided to spread my pleasant wishes as far as possible. Here are my wishes for you. Feel free to share them and wish the same to your friends and loved one's. 

Blue Moon wishes meme.jpg
  • I wish you a clear night sky to view this super blue moon. 
  • I wish you a bright dawn full of hope and promise.
  • I wish you comfort and shelter in rough weather and the freedom to roam in fine weather
  • I wish you lively consciousness, a resilient body, the love of acceptance and surety of purpose.

And I also have wishes for the world at this turning:: 

  • I wish everyone could simultaneously wake up full of hope and compassion one morning, so that no one's small gesture of kindness would be rebuffed and the sense of hope would just keep going.
  • I wish all the pundits and news anchors would decide to speak honestly from their hearts and deepest convictions. 
  • I wish the people who run big corporations would suddenly all stop and consider the future of their own descendants and decide to tackle climate change seriously with us right now.
  • I wish that human leaders should be held accountable to law and the democratic will of the people this year. 
  • I wish for all humans to become aware of our close connection to plants, animals, the land, the air and the water around us, so that we make decisions that will give us the life we actually want.
  • I wish for all people to be free from addictions as well as from the dissonance between beliefs and actions.
  • I wish all the lonely and outcast people could find each other and become the biggest, most accepting and most joyful tribe on earth. 

You may laugh at my unrealistic wishes. But they are real, not just platitudes. This is the breath of hope.

Yule carol to a 250-year-old Slovak tune

This time before the Winter Solstice looks like a gloomy time at our latitude. The sun is far to the south and even at midday it sits near the horizon. Sunday will see the dark of the moon and arguably the darkest night, though the Solstice is a few days away. There will be only stars to light this long night.

Creative Commons image by fdecomite of

Creative Commons image by fdecomite of

Monday will usher in a tiny crescent of moon after sunset in the far western sky. And each day after that the crescent will grow and be higher in the sky as night falls.

On the 21st the sun will give the least light in the northern hemisphere and it will stay that way for three exceptionally dark days. It is a time of stars, of small, twinkling lights and of solace in the darkness. 

And yet, people have celebrated the
Winter Solstice since prehistoric times in one form or another. Music of wonder and hope belongs to this season and I am always in search of more songs that celebrate the sun and earth, the moon and the stars. When I can't find a song that fits just right, I have to put my nose to the grindstone and write my own.

Below you can find the lyrics I wrote for this Winter Solstice. It's a song for rising at dawn--not that early, so not hard to do--on the Winter Solstice and going out with a mug of something hot and spicy into the cold to greet the sun. 

The tune is from a 250-year-old Slovak carol by František Sušil. You can listen to the melody here and follow along with the words. It's meant to be sung as a lively tune, but it is easy enough even for those of us without a great deal of musical talent.


Rise in good cheer


Rise in good cheer children of earth

Bring a coal to kindle the hearth

Hail the rising winter sun

Star of hope and our rebirth

Greet the light this winter's morn'

Star of hope and our rebirth

Through midnight's shadow I may go

Storm of sleet and wind and snow

I seek a light to guide my way

Star of waking, light and truth

Shining at the darkest hour

Star of waking, light and truth