Comments 4

Winter Gardening

The view from my window in Taos during a spring trip.  New Mexico boasts 300 days of sunshine each year. DC has just 96, but this time of year, even the sunny days  last just a few hours.

Each December, I review my year, combing through my gratitude list to try to understand the patterns and themes I couldn’t see in my daily documentation.

This year has been a steep learning curve.  My focus has been on my learning process, what I offer students and clients, and creating space for a life partnership.  I’ve been teaching a lot, including a new yoga therapy group at GW Hospital. At the same time, I’m completing the requirements to become a Integrative Yoga Therapist, studied polarity therapy for a year, cultivated a coaching practice (working with the most amazing folks on the planet, of course!), and offered energy work and private yoga therapy to an increasing number of appreciative folks.

One thing that surprised me was just how much creativity I infuse in my classes and in working with individual clients — teaching from the five elements, or working up the joints of the body, or focusing on different practices depending on the season — and how meaningful it felt to be involved in the shaping and editing of other people’s creative expressions, whether those were books, lyrical and photographic essays, business proposals, or film scripts.  It’s not exactly that I don’t see myself as creative; it’s that I’ve held onto the idea that writing is my creative practice and teaching is something else.

Not that I’m belittling writing — or teaching.  One of the patterns I look for in my reviews is what made me feel really good, since this is the best indication of what I know I need to be doing regularly in the next year. And, unsurprisingly, every time I wrote — whether a blog post, a poetic fragment, a teaching agenda, a journal entry, a long email to a faraway friend — I felt better after, more alive and clear and full of insights, with the embodied sense that everything is okay exactly as it already is.  Ditto for teaching — even when I had migraines, felt exhausted, or just off.  I always felt better after.

This makes me think that next year, I will just have to write more things that integrate what I’ve been learning in my teaching and yoga and energy practices.

The other thing that is only clear in hindsight is that while this has been a period of deep learning in community with others, while I live in a housing cooperative with others, while I teach with amazing folks, this hasn’t felt like a year full of community, but rather of turning inward.

This shifted three days before my 44th birthday in October, when JC came to the States and moved in. Nothing like someone over 6 feet moving in to shake your idea of space up.

On Friday — the winter solstice — we’ll get married in a simple courthouse ceremony with just a few witnesses, and celebrate with a small gathering of local friends at night.  I didn’t want anything fancy, just a small step up from parties I used to throw involving kegs in tub and soup mix and sour cream as a dip

But I did want something soulful, and there’s no better date than December 21st.

I’ve written before about the concept of Jacob’s Ladder and how the solstices are the times with more of a connection between this plane and spiritual realms.  I love the idea of having a ceremony on a day when my many dead people can find it a bit easier to hang out and send a blessing, and when we are consciously choosing to connect with the light, as little though it seems.  It was my late father’s birthday yesterday.  Actually, he was born at home, with no birth certificate, so when he needed papers to emigrate the U.S., he picked a day which would have fallen on the holiday he knew he was born during, Hanukkah  otherwise known as the Festival of Lights.  It’s close enough to the solstice, and I like to think that he’ll be present.

Last weekend, I was thrown an amazing gathering in my honor by a group of beautiful yoginis.  One of my friends, who has radical transformed her life since the 2011 winter solstice, offered me a blessing.  I hope you weed your garden, she said, make sure you remember what needs to be given water and light, and what needs to be pulled out.  Tend to your garden daily.

There is much darkness in the world right now: shootings in elementary schools, shale readied for drilling, poets imprisoned for truth telling and civilians killed by machines operated from millions of miles away.   But I can’t help to be drawn to this quote by Mr. (Fred) Rogers:  “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things int he news, my mother would say to me look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 

May you all find the help(ers) you need in this season where the light takes a bit more patience to capture.  The daily work in the garden should help you locate it, as is moves slowly through the winter season.


This entry was posted in: Solstice


I'm a yoga therapist and coach who is fascinated by the ways in which scientific inquiry has converged with wisdom traditions in concluding that our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are intrinsically connected. I try to use this knowledge to help people feel more resilient, courageous and alive.


  1. Oh, Yael… it was such a pleasure reading this, and such an honor to know you and to hear you voice in every word. I too was married on the 21st of December, the Winter Solstice, and it holds special meaning to me also. My husband and I are coming up on our 44th anniversary. We were married at 7:00 in the evening. I will be with you in spirit. Love, MaryAnn

    • MaryAnn, the honor is all mine — I am delighted to be walking in your footsteps, and will be with you in spirit on the Solstice. With much love, Yael

  2. Caitlin Gutheil says

    Hi Yael – I stumbled on your blog after visiting the IWWG website and seeing a link to it there. It made me so happy to see this posting and to learn that you were married just this past weekend! I love your friend’s blessing about gardening — it’s a piece of advice I’ll now carry into the new year too. Sending much love to you all good wishes for your writing and teaching as well. Hopefully our writing paths will cross again in 2013! – Caitlin

    • Caitlin! I can’t wait to read your novel — and I’m hoping that blessing will help you with whatever stage you now find yourself with it. I send you lots of good wishes — and nudges — hoping to cross paths with you in 2013. Love, Yael

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