A Reflection on TreeFolks’ Winter Solstice Party and on the Origin of “Rebirth” Celebrations

On December 15, TreeFolks hosted a party for the non-profit’s anniversary as well as the Winter Solstice. The celebration was a little premature (given the shortest day of the year fell on December 21st), but the energy and spirit of all the friends of TreeFolks was fully ripe. Below is a video attempting to capture the night’s festivities!


Blake Rolland, a microbiologist, board member of a local nonprofit community laboratory, and new friend to TreeFolks, poetically captured the essence of the evening:

At the TreeFolks Winter Solstice Celebration I found that I had stumbled upon somewhat of an oasis on the outskirts of Austin. At once, I felt welcomed with open arms in the midst of fantastic people mingling, laughing, and making connections between the symphonic sound of campfires and the crackling warmth coming from the bluegrass being played by a live band! The attendees, ranging from bird-watching enthusiasts, to grass-seedling and bioregeneration experts, artists to scientists, and everything in-between, made me feel like there were no bounds to where a conversation could begin or end, in a very, very, good way.

To top it all off, I had the pleasure of meeting with a future members of TreeFolks’ young professionals group called Central Leaders. The interactions I had with fellow future Central Leaders are sure to be fruitful through lasting relationships while we develop our careers; I found out that we all share the common characteristic of wanting to do our part in bringing our diverse expertise and experiences together to make a lasting positive impact on our collective environment here in Central Texas!

Long story short, the party was 10/10, would go again! So glad I went, and I’ll be looking forward to the next Solstice party and helping either organization in any way I can!

We are glad you came, Blake!!

For those of you who are like me and sometimes struggle with comprehending astronomical phenomena, you may also enjoy this article by Forbes: 5 Facts Everyone Must Know Now That The Solstice is Over.

Winter Solstice Sun Stained Glass

The fact that seemed most thought provoking to me was #5: It’s called the “solstice” because the Sun literally “stands still” in the sky. While I do have a soft spot for etymology, what really piqued my interest was the following paragraph:

There is a theory that the whole idea of celebrating the new year only began as humans migrated away from the equator, where the difference between the Sun’s path through the sky — and the seasonal climates — became incredibly different. As the Winter Solstice approaches, the Sun’s path dips lower and lower each day. Perhaps you’d fear, if you didn’t know any better, that it might drop below the horizon entirely and disappear forever. But the Solstice marks its minimum point, and then a few days afterwards, it noticeably begins to rise again. Hence, the Sun would return to its dazzling spring-and-summer heights, and a new year would begin. Perhaps that’s where rituals such as New Year’s, Christmas, and other just-post-solstice “rebirth” celebrations owe their origins to!

From the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the lowest, shortest path that the Sun takes

I LOVE that theory!! It reminds me of something I recently read that really moved me. It was a blogpost on An Empowered Spirit called “A Path to Healing.”

In this blog, author Cathy Chester introduced me to a quote by Rumi : “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” She included this picture which helped me understand this quote on an ever deeper level. I am not certain that Cathy realized how perfect this photo is. From the perspective of mother nature and in particular Her architecture of forests, this saying holds true due to the way they work on a fundamental level.


@mrs.kristina via Twenty20

In an old growth forest, dense with sprawling branches and foliage in various shades ofgreen, every drop of sunlight is captured and there is little opportunity for new vegetation to harness the energy it needs to reach new heights. It can stay like this for years, with old, gnarly trees dominating the forest, but it can’t stay that way forever. Eventually, lightning strikes, a gust of wind blows, waters flood the forest floor and the weakest tree will fall victim and topple over. From the perspective of the tree that has witnessed years of growth around it and who has weathered many previous storms, this is seen as a devastating loss.


But, from the perspective of the saplings that sprinkle the forest floor, this is actually an enormous opportunity. From this wound, light enters the forest floor, energizing the tissues of the undergrowth that have remained content with their 5-foot tall achievement to date. And in a short amount of time (at least on nature’s clock), these trees have risen to new heights.

This method of counter-thinking is something that Cathy writes about as well: “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

One thing I have been working on is recognizing when my thoughts are only focused on the negative perspective. Seeing things from this perspective is easy, because it is the most obvious. The real challenge is finding the Light in the wound.

I’ll close this blog with a couple of paragraphs from Cathy’s blog:

When things fall apart or you feel fear, rather than feel you’re getting the short end of the stick, feel lucky. Only when you feel fear will you feel the opportunity to have the courage to grow. Being courageous and having a great life is all about being intimate with fear in a wise and graceful way. Feel the fear, and then do what needs to get done. Rather than being depressed about fear, lean into it, and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

There’s a choice we all have to make, and that is whether we want to live or die inside our hearts. At one point or another we all must stand on the precipice of fear and choose which direction we want to go.

I promise myself to live in gratitude, no matter how many storms pass over me. I will count my blessings, turn toward fear and keep my head in the direction of the sun to face another challenge and allow space for “rebirth” and for the saplings in my heart to grow and reach new heights.



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