I’m not entirely sure why, but this is my favorite time of year. Perhaps it’s a holdover from childhood, when year’s end meant two weeks off from school, and of relative freedom. But I do think it’s deeper than that. It has to do, I think, with the change of season, with the solstice, when the nights are longest and hours of sunlight the fewest. Because the sun is lower in the sky, colors are more vivid, and everything feels lighter and less tense. It’s the time of the big yin, a time to turn inward, a time for less action and more contemplation. Our bodies, whether we acknowledge it or not, are attuned to these changes. For many plants and animals, winter is a time of rest, and shouldn’t it also be for us? I wonder if some of the extra illness so many of us experience in winter isn’t partly because we fail to heed this seasonal call to rest, and instead press ahead with ever more work and social activity.
Having said that, it’s also true that there’s a great deal to enjoy now. As the weather turns colder, people seem to gather more closely, and the bustle of cities becomes more alluring. I’m not much of a shopper, but once a year or so I enjoy the crowds in downtown San Francisco, which at this time reach an almost New York-like intensity. I agreed to meet up with my friends Susanne Jensen and Sophia Hummell to take in the music, the decorations, to people watch and to have a pre-Christmas lunch. Although it was the Winter Solstice and only four days before Christmas, with temperatures in the 60′s, and a bright sun, the crowds seemed both larger and more relaxed than usual. It felt as if we’d all taken a pledge to be in a really good mood. And so, here’s a little bit of what I saw, on my own, and with Susanne and Sophia on the shortest day of year. Whether or not you observe a holiday this week, I hope you are able to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy this special time of the year. Best wishes in all you do.
Photos: Top–The world’s largest gingerbread house? Who knows, but you can walk through this edible marvel in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, on Mason Street at the top of Nob Hill. Occasionally, the story goes, people nibble on it and the hotel pastry chefs must make repairs. Above: A Christmas tree and menorah side-by-side in Union Square. We were dismayed that neither this tree nor any of the the other trees we saw was real.