The days continue to get darker earlier. I find myself lighting the candles in our windows now at 4:00, looking out into the dusk. Even though the solstice is still a week away, the afternoons have me feeling a strange primal urge to build myself a fireplace and burn a very large log. Nature draws inward for the winter, gathering energy for the lengthening days and the beginning of spring. I find myself drawing inward, too, even though everything else around me draws me outward in celebration of the season; perhaps it's no wonder that I'm feeling a little overrun by the holidays.
And yet, at the darkest time of year, we celebrate the coming of the light and the spring. The festival of Yule was initially celebrated by the ancient Germanic people, where at this time of year the hours of daylight are limited, if they exist at all, as a recognition that spring was on the way. Last year we were invited to a Yule gathering, and I learned that the holiday is also a fertility celebration: the ashes of the yule log were scattered on fields to ensure a productive harvest during the coming months.
I've been thinking a lot about the IF community lately. The winter holidays can be very dark days when you're grieving a loss, or when the cards plastered with photos of happy families remind you constantly of what you don't have. Even those of us who "crossed over" feel the darkness at this time of year: old wounds become tender, we feel strange pangs at happy announcements. And the sad announcements are even worse: I was heartsick to hear about the friend of a friend who, after six years of TTC and several rounds of infertility treatments, just lost his wife to complications from a C-section with twins (you can read about them, and reach out, here).
One of the first poems I ever had to memorize in school was Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening." I remember being struck by the stillness that the poem evoked, and feeling like my tweenaged self could identify with the traveler: drawn by the darkness, but determined to go on, to reach the hearth waiting at the end of the journey. Especially now, we owe it to each other to stick together, to keep each other moving through the darkness. To embrace the turning-inward that comes naturally when we are attuned to the seasons and to our life experiences rather than struggling against them, but to prepare together, quietly, for what comes next.
These look a little like logs, and you can pretend that the white chocolate drizzle is snow. I hope that it's not too dark where you are; at least you are with friends, and eventually, there will be a warm hearth to come home to.
Chai Shortbread Yule Logs
1 c. butter (or a combination of vegan margarine and shortening)
3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 t. vanilla
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. almond flour (or more regular flour)
2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. coriander
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. chai tea leaf blend
4 oz. white chocolate, melted
1 t. (or more) oil
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Cream the butter; fold in powdered sugar and vanilla and cream together until smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together flours, spices, baking soda, salt, and tea. Add to the butter mixture in two parts, mixing well after each addition until a dense dough forms.
Divide the dough into two logs about 8x3" and 1/2 inch thick. Slice into 1/2" slices and place onto parchment about 2 inches apart.
Bake 12-14 minutes, until the edges are just turning golden. Cool 5 minutes.
Melt white chocolate (either over a double boiler or in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring after each interval). Add the oil and mix well. It should now be a good consistency for drizzling (it should run off a fork pretty smoothly). Drizzle over the shortbread and allow the chocolate to firm up before storing tightly covered.