Posts Tagged ‘winter solstice’

Long Dark Nights of Winter

December 6, 2016

Winter Solstice comes early to Little Renaissance.  Every year, we celebrate a Hatha Yoga Winter Solstice Retreat on the first weekend of December at Little Renaissance.   We celebrate early before the busy-ness of the holiday season takes hold.

Winter Solstice is a time of quiet firelight, a time to nurture dreams.  The dark clear nights reveal the bright stars.  Late at night, I can sit quietly in the hot tub and see shooting stars trailing across the  sky.  I celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the year with a wonderful group of yogis.  We anticipate the rebirth of the sun and contemplate our own spiritual rebirth.  We see this time of year as a turning point and a time of year to renew energy.

I look out the window and see the garden boxes through sheets of rain.  The garden boxes look spent from having produced so generously all summer long.  Gratefully, the soil lies resting, patiently waiting for the warmer and brighter days of spring.   The resting soil of the cold winter days and nights reminds me that the future holds promise, always.  Come spring, seeds will germinate and take root.  Likewise, I believe the future will manifest our visions and dreams.

For now, while we wait for the rebirth of the sun, we stand still.  Winter Solstice is a time of repose, a time to light the wood stove, stoke up the heat, soak in the hot tub, sit quietly surrounded by lit candles, delve into a good novel, and dream.

Below are photos from our past weekend’s Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat.  This group of yogis has been coming to Ocean Shores biannually for 10 years running!

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Ready for winter winds: Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Pretty driftwood log

Pretty driftwood log

Vast Ocean Beach

Vast Ocean Beach  (Skye and Dan)

Remnants of an old boardwalk

Remnants of an old dock

Group Shot I

Group Shot I

Group Shot II

Group Shot II

A Forest Takes Root in the House

A Forest Takes Root in the House

Collage I put together from Skye's photos

Collage I put together from Skye’s photos

Second collage I put together using Skye's photos

Second collage I put together using Skye’s photos

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Come Hell or High Water

December 17, 2015

Last Wednesday, I led a Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat in Issaquah.  The day retreat included Yin Yoga, a delicious lunch made by Cathy Pierce, a discussion related to wellness, a walk, and a long late afternoon session of restorative yoga.  Throughout the day, everyone had a half hour massage with Julie Bacon.  This was my third annual Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat and it was another great experience (see next year’s date at the end of this blog post).

It rained practically non stop for days leading to the retreat.  Crystal Creek flooded over so all the participants had to drive through fairly high water to get to the retreat site, which sits at the top of a mountain.  So now you understand the title of this blog entry!  No one turned back.  Come hell or high water, they showed up on time for the day retreat.  It was most admirable!  Most people had large vehicles to get across the deep water that flooded over and covered the street, but some people had economy-sized cars and they made it across, too.  Talk about determination!

Below are some photos from the day, along with some writing about the shared discussions on the topic of wellness.

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!  It had been a long time since Crystal Creek had seen flooding like this!

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, so we think they did not suffer too greatly from this flooding.

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, but I fear they suffered flood damage.

Dayna with Willie in front of the flooded area.

Dayna with Cathy’s dog, Willie, in front of the flooded area.

Even flooded fields can be beautiful

Flooded field and forest

My walking buddies.  We were followed by a scary dog who was off leash.  He looked like a big black German Shepherd.  At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Mike to come get us!  By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was no where in sight.

My walking buddies. We were followed by a dog who was off-leash. He was a large black wolf-like German Shepherd. At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Cathy who sent Mike to come get us! By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was nowhere in sight.  I don’t think Willie (on leash above) ever noticed the scary looking dog.

The Holiday Wellness Retreat Participants were asked to do or answer one of the following:

  • How do you nurture yourself and your community?
  • Can you share a special photo that perhaps comes with a story to share?
  • Please share a poem or something you are reading that is meaningful to you.

I read the following poem:

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Lisa spoke of her love of reading!  Reading is something she feels is self-indulgent and it is her key to wellness because it feeds her mind and spirit.  She then read a lovely excerpt from The Hobbit by Tolkien.

Kim said she had a hard time with self nurturing.  Self-nurturing, at times, seems to be a guilty pleasure, though she felt good about coming to this day retreat.  Coming to a retreat is about reserving the time to do it.  She spends a lot of time taking care of her parents so taking out time to retreat is challenging.  “Self nurturing is allowing myself this moment.”

She brought along a beautiful photo from the retreat she and her husband experienced in India with me earlier this year.  The photo (see below) was of all of us doing rooftop morning yoga in Rajasthan. As we passed the photo around the group,  she described the parrots flying around, the morning call to prayer from a nearby mosque, the sun rising,  and the Indian families waking up, starting their day by cooking with delicious spices.  We could smell the spices from Rooftop Yoga.

Kim's photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Kim’s photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Lastly, Kim read an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For my Journey Now. She read the short chapter titled, A Day Away:

We often think that our affairs, great or small, must be tended continuously and in detail, or our world will disintegrate, and we will lose our places in the universe. That is not true, or if it is true, then our situations were so temporary that they would have collapsed anyway.

Once a year or so I give myself a day away. On the eve of my day of absence, I begin to unwrap the bonds which hold me in harness. I inform housemates, my family and close friends that I will not be reachable for twenty-four hours; then I disengage the telephone. I turn the radio dial to an all-music station, preferably one which plays the soothing golden
oldies. I sit for at least an hour in a very hot tub; then I lay out my clothes in preparation for my morning escape, and knowing that nothing will disturb me, I sleep the sleep of the just.

On the morning I wake naturally, for I will have set no clock, nor informed my body timepiece when it should alarm. I dress in comfortable shoes and casual clothes and leave my house going no place. If I am living in a city, I wander streets, window-shop, or gaze at buildings. I enter and leave public parks, libraries, the lobbies of skyscrapers, and movie houses.
I stay in no place for very long.

On the getaway day I try for amnesia. I do not want to know my name, where I live, or how many dire responsibilities rest on my shoulders. I detest encountering even the closest friend, for then I am reminded of who I am, and the circumstances of my life, which I want to forget for a while.

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spaces of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.

When I return home, I am always surprised to find some questions I sought to evade had been answered and some entanglements I had hoped to flee had become unraveled in my absence.

A day away acts as a spring tonic. It can dispel rancor, transform indecision, and renew the spirit.

Another retreat participant, Dayna, who recently experienced some health challenges, said, “I am taking in nurturing after having worn down my system.  I am now all about self-care. I am putting myself first for the first time in my life.  I’ve always wanted to refine my health and now I am doing just that. One of the things I am doing is cutting out sugar.”  Dayna is also making other great changes in her life and is an amazing example to those of us in her company!  She made reference to A COURSE IN MIRACLES, a unique, universal, self-study spiritual thought system that teaches the way to Love and Inner Peace is through Forgiveness. This course has shaped Dayna into who she is today and is contributing greatly to her self-nurturing strategies.

Brenda read excerpts from the book, The Gift, written by the Sufi poet and master, Hafiz.  It is amazing to think that Hafiz write in the 13th century because his words and ideas are so contemporary.  Below are some quotes from The Gift by Hafiz:

“The
Earth would die
If the sun stopped kissing her.”
“The heart is a
The thousand-stringed instrument
That can only be tuned with
Love.”
“Let’s get loose
With
Compassion,
Let’s drown in the delicious
Ambiance of
Love.”
“Not loving is a letting go.
Listen,
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That.”
“What is the root of all these words?
One thing: Love.
But a love so deep and sweet it needed to express itself with scents, sounds, colors that never before existed.”
Hāfez, The Gift
Brenda also spoke of the Five Spiritual Practices, as taught at her spiritual center, The Center for Spiritual Living.  The Five Spiritual Practices nurture her and her community.  They are the following:

Meditation
Guidance from Within

Prayer
Communion with the Divine

Study
Awakening to Meaning

Seva (Selfless Service)
Oneness in Action

Circulation
Participating in the Natural Spiritual Order of Never Ending Flow, Ability to Give and Take

You can read about the Five Spiritual Practices in detail here.  Brenda can also be found giving out biscuits to her neighborhood dogs.  Passing out dog biscuits is part of her nurturing program!
Cathy nurtures herself and others by engaging in “Give and Take Conversations”.  She firmly believes that kindness begets kindness.  She believes we are all interconnected.  And her new way of nurturing herself is by learning to use the concept of  integrating the affirmative “yes” and moving away from “no”.  For Cathy, “yes” gives way to possibility and “no” translates to limitations.  “Don’t tell me No!”  Don’t tell me you can’t do it.  Don’t tell me how to think.  Don’t tell me no.”
Now by contrast, Leslie S. thought that in order to self-nurture, the answer is NO!  However, Leslie’s idea of saying No comes from always saying yes and rarely saying NO.  As a result, she ends up doing too much for others and not enough for herself.  She also talked about her geriatric 15 year-old deaf dog named Nietzsche, who has become quite needy.  She is both amazed (because she loves him) and horrified (because he is so incredibly elderly) that he is still alive.  He and his needs interfere with her sleep. She is consistently awakened by him at 4 or 4:30am.  She is sleep deprived and said that her self-nurturing will begin one day when he is no longer around, at which point she will be able to sleep.
Karen self nurtures and nurtures her community by organizing an ever-growing annual Winter Solstice Candle Lighting community-wide event on Vashon Island.  She spoke of creating golden light on the shortest day of the year, golden light as far as the eye can see!  She makes magic happen for her community on December 21st.  The following excerpt comes from Karen’s weekly newsletter:
The sun will stand still for a brief moment, holding its breath over the Tropic of Capricorn while the waxing moon hovers in Taurus. In our Puget Sound region, the day will be 8 hours, 41 minutes and 47 seconds long, with the sun setting at 4:20 in the afternoon.
You get almost one hour more in Chicago with 9 hours, 7 minutes and 44 seconds of day length and in Miami you get another hour with 10 hours, 31 minutes and 46 seconds of day length. Wait, there’s more! If you happen to be in Reykjavik, Iceland during the winter solstice, you may be inclined to not bother getting out of bed with only 4 hours, 7 minutes and 9 seconds of daylight, much of that twilight.
With a dry day and many helping hands, trucks, sand, bags and candles we will light magic along Paradise Valley.
This is the moment we gather ourselves and prepare for the return of the sun to our northern hemisphere. It may officially be the beginning of winter, yet many of us will do a happy dance to welcome back the ascent of the sun as it adds daylight 5 and 6 seconds a day.
Our work begins early, the magic happens as we work and there are many opportunities for you to participate. If you wake up Monday, the 21st to a dry day, gather your many layers and come down to the farm about 11:00 AM. We will bag sand and candles, load trailers and truck beds, sip coffee and soup. We will go as far as we can with as many bags and candles as we have. One year we made it over 3 miles from the corner at 204/ Highway at CenturyTel to way, way down Wax Orchard Road.
I have been lighting Paradise Valley since 2000, when I lit a path from my house to my neighbors across the street, down to his pond in his backyard. James thought we were a little crazy, but he sure did love the candle light around his pond.
Luminaria: Beautiful painting by Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice Magical Candle Lighting, organized annually by Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

Luminaria: painting by Vashon artist Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice magical candle lighting, organized annually by organic farmer Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

marykay shared a photo of her son, David, whom she lost earlier this year.  David died on his own terms. I was lucky enough to get to know David and Rick was drawn to David’s kindness and got together with him from time to time.  They were scrabble-mates.  Please take a moment to read Windswept Wonder, my blog post from two years ago when marykay and her beautiful family (her adult children) did a yoga retreat at Little Renaissance, Ocean Shores.  David is the handsome fellow wearing eyeglasses.  marykay has taught me and reminded me that we can all nurture our community by reaching out to others who appear to be suffering from depression.  REACH OUT.  It’s a powerful message!  And don’t forget to say, “Have a nice day.”  Those were David’s words.  These simple words could put a smile on anyone’s face.
And a few more photos from the weekend:
Winter Garden

Winter Garden in Issaquah

Yoga

Yoga at Crystal Creek

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

 Next year’s Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 2016.   Comment below to save your spot with Fran.

Winter Solstice 2012

December 22, 2012

Happy Winter Solstice from Sayulita, Mexico!

This day also marks the first day of winter, the start of longer days, the end of the Mayan calendar,  the end of the Piscean Age, the beginning of the Age of Aquarius.   For some this day represents an energetic shift,  a new time for women’s leadership, a time for collaboration, creativity, and non-linear thinking.

I feel it’s another opportunity to continue to do my part in creating a peaceful world and to practice Ahimsa (non violence).

In light of the violence in today’s world, I’d like the words from the song, Age of Aquarius, to come alive:

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius

The Age of Aquarius Aquarius! Aquarius!

Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in The sun shine in Let the sun shine

Below is a short slide show from yesterday and today, Winter Solstice in Sayulita, set to beautiful music played by Leo, a musician we met today at the Friday market:

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Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat

December 9, 2012
Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat: Winter Sky

Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat: Winter Sky

spindrift scudding
sand and sleet stinging eyes we trudge
backwards into storm

Mary and Jerry free fall into the 35 mile per hour winds

Mary and Jerry free fall into the 35 mile per hour winds

We had a wonderful Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat last weekend.  Rick so nicely captured our beach walk in his haiku (above).  Our hearty group was not daunted by the high winds and cold air.  We simply bundled up and went out into the winter elements.  The walks were invigorating!

The yoga practice last weekend felt innovative and playful because I have some new yoga “toys”.  I have a headstander, which is a stable padded u-shaped bench on which one can do headstands without putting any pressure on the neck or head.  It is a great way to invert and to strengthen the abdominals (because you have to use them to get up!).  It just so happened that Christine also bought one earlier this year and she brought hers along.  I am also the proud new owner of yoga chairs which are great for doing backbends, inversions, and standing poses.  Oddly enough, the chairs can be used for modifying poses (great for beginners), but they can also be used to intensify a pose (great for intermediate to advanced yogis like this particular group).  I will later write a blog post about using the chair in yoga (for both beginners and for more advanced students of yoga)

Below are some photos from last weekend.  And following the photos are some recipes from some of the meals we enjoyed.

Rick took this photo of a barred owl.  The owl was on a low branch just off the road outside our home.

Rick took this photo of a barred owl. The owl was on a low branch just off the road outside our home.  He seemed to greet us as we headed out on our beach walk.

Wildlife abounds at Ocean Shores.  Again, just outside our home, we came across this buck on the way back from the beach.  He was fearless!

Wildlife abounds at Ocean Shores. Again, just outside our home, we came across this buck on the way back from the beach. He was fearless!

A whir of activity. Why do I purchase props when I can simply backbend over Grace while Jerry spots me?

A whir of activity. Why do I purchase props such as yoga chairs and headstanders when I can simply backbend over Grace while Jerry spots me? (photo by Skye)

Woodstove and Candles

Woodstove and Candles (photo by Skye)

Face Rocks (photo by Skye)

Face Rocks (photo by Skye)

The breakfast table: Jerry brought her delicious home pressed apple cider.  It is the best in the world made from a variety of apples with fantastic names such as Northern Spy, Liberty, Holstein, Melrose, Kingston Black, King, Ashmead, and Kernel apples!  Thank you Jerry!

The breakfast table: Jerry brought her delicious home pressed apple cider (richly colored orange drink in the photo!). It is the best cider in the world made from a variety of apples with fantastic names such as Northern Spy, Liberty, Holstein, Melrose, Kingston Black, King, Ashmead, and Kernel apples!

Pacific Coast Winter Walk: Carol and Fran

Pacific Coast Winter Walk: Carol and Fran (photo by Rick)

Grace and Jerry's miraculous Warrior III on driftwood with tide coming in (and strong winds!).

Grace and Jerry’s miraculous Warrior III on driftwood with tide coming in and strong winds!

Christine and Craig (near the trail head and out of the fierce wind)

Christine and Craig (near the trailhead and out of the fierce wind)

Weatherwax Preserve: after being wind whipped, some of us decided to walk the sheltered forest of this preserved forest in Ocean Shores.  I love this photo as I managed to capture the moss of the rainforest and light.  After being in the wind, everything here was so quiet.

Weatherwax Forest Preserve: after being wind whipped on the beach, some of us decided to walk this sheltered forest  in Ocean Shores. I love this photo as I managed to capture the moss of the rainforest and the light. After being in the wind, everything here was so quiet.

Skye and Grace admire and photograph the beauty of Weatherwax Preserve.

Skye and Grace admire and photograph the beauty of Weatherwax Preserve.

Yoga Star:  we actually had a professional photographer take photos of the group doing yoga on Sunday morning.  As always when a photographer is present, we are more aware of our alignment and we work 10x harder! I took this photo, but the professional photos will appear on my website next year.

Yoga Star: we actually had a professional photographer take photos of the group doing yoga on Sunday morning. As always when a photographer is present, we are more aware of our alignment and we work 10x harder! I took this photo, but the professional photos will appear on my website next year.

Frittata with Chard and Roasted Red Peppers (serves 4-8)

1 bunch chard
1 large leek, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp minced fresh marjoram
1 tsp salt
2 large roasted red peppers (1/2 cup)
6 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup grated fontina cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash chard, remove stalks, dry the leaves, stack and cut into ribbons. In large pan, sauté leeks in oil and butter over medium heat until soft. Add spinach, herbs and salt. Saute about 7 more minutes, until spinach is well cooked. Remove from heat, stir in peppers and cool.
In large bowl, beat eggs with milk and add breadcrumbs and cheese. Stir in spinach mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bake in a buttered 9×9 pan for 40 minutes until center is firm and crust is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Little Quinoa Patties (makes 12 patties)

2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature (I cook it a few hours before putting this together)
4 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese (since I doubled the recipe, I used 1/3 cup of each)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed (since I was making these gluten free, I substituted this with rice flour, but they are tastier with bread crumbs)
water, if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine quinoa, eggs and salt in a bowl. Stir in chives, onion, cheese and garlic. Add the breadcrumbs, stir and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture.

Form 12 one-inch patties. If too moist, add more breadcrumbs, if too dry, add one more beaten egg or add water.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add patties. Cover and cook for 7-10 minutes until the bottoms are deeply browned. Flip and cook 7 minutes more on side two (or until golden brown). Note: can also be oven baked

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna (serves 6) (labor intensive but worth it!)

For Squash Filling:
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and but into ½ inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz) toasted and coarsely chopped

For Sauce:
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagne:
½ lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
12 sheets no-boil lasagna

Make filling: Cook onion in butter, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts.

Make sauce:
Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf.

Assemble lasagna:
Preheat oven to 425 F
Toss cheeses together. Spread ½ cup sauce in a buttered 13×9 by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3 quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and 1/3 cup filling, then sprinkle with a heaping ½ cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce and remaining cheese.
Tightly cover baking dish with foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10-15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15-20 minutes before serving.


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