It finally happened: After a long, luxuriously warm, golden fall…winter arrived. 

The temperature dropped, the rains fell, the days shortened and darkness took over. Neighbors sighed and tucked their gardens in for the long sleep. Animals burrowed deeper into their nests. People huddled under heavy coats, warm scarves and hats. 

Soon enough, though, we began to light our homes inside and out, signaling our adaptability and resilience. Queen Anne and Magnolia merchants worked longer hours, opening their shops for community celebrations and seasonal shopping. Friends invited us inside to share holiday cheer, despite the dreary weather outside. We adjusted; we made the best of it, even embraced it, as we do every winter.

And just when we have made the adjustment, as if to congratulate us for our efforts, the winter solstice occurs, and the days gradually begin to lengthen again.

Nature, with its changing seasons, is one of the best teachers we have. We learn each year that we have an immense capacity for turning dark into light, bad into good, for starting anew with a fresh approach, despite what has happened in the past. 

Even in the darkest, deepest winter, seeds and bulbs planted in the fall are beginning their process of changing, readying themselves for their grand entrance in the spring. 

So, too, we turn inward and reflect on our dreams and wishes for the coming year. We formulate resolutions in the hope that, like our gardens, we will flower and grow in the new year.


The dark times

The Mayans predicted that the world would end in 2012; I think they were right — perhaps not literally. But, for me and for many people in my life, the world as we have known it changed irrevocably this past year, both personally and globally. 

The political climate shifted, and our true national demographic was acknowledged. People in our state can finally marry whomever they love. More women are holding top-level positions in government, heralding a change of leadership and attitude. 

Many of my friends and family members experienced major life changes; I know I did. Pain and bewilderment gave way to clarity and a renewed sense of self, work and purpose. 

Through struggle and pain we grow. Confusion and hurt force us to find our inner resolve and strength. Betrayal pushes us to rely more on and believe in ourselves — but only if we are willing and open to it. We need to wade through the mud, cold and nastiness to come to the other side: the warm, sunny spring where all things become possible again.

The truth is, most often, something needs to die for something else to be born;

something needs to end for there to be a beginning — which is why it is important to recognize that the tough times you experience, the darkness in your life, is directly connected to the goodness and light that is to come. This may make it easier to bear the difficult times. 

Not always. But it might help you see a tiny speck of light way off in the distance, waiting for you to find a way to get closer to the brilliance, the joy that is our natural human state of being.


Light in the new year

Winter is a time to grow quiet, to step away from the frenzy of the holidays, to notice nature’s winter beauty, to become aware of the life that is taking root underground and inside of us. We have the ability to discover the balance and growth naturally occurring within us as we prepare for the light that is sure to come. 

Take some time this season to light your way out of the darkness, to plant some seeds for the coming year. 

IRENE HOPKINS, who had lived on Queen Anne for 20 years, now lives on a sailboat in Ballard. She can be reached at