Saturday, December 21st, was the very shortest day of 2013. I celebrate Hanukkah and I celebrate Christmas, but of all the winter holidays, Solstice is the one that most speaks to my heart. It’s a day for contemplating darkness; it is literally the darkest day of the year.
But, in its passing, we move to a new phase – the lengthening of light.
So essentially, the Solstice commemorates balance – the cyclical nature of life, the Universe, and, well, everything. We must pass through this darkest moment before we can bask in the light. Again, and again.
Be present with the darkness. Feel it. Touch it. It is an essential part of life.
We celebrated, as we do every year, at the home of my godparents. High in the foothills overlooking the canyons and beyond, the ocean. They have been holding Solstice gatherings for all of my life. Some years big, boisterous parties with wine and singing, feast and fire dancing. Other years are small and intimate. Like this one: quieter, closer, cocooning.
But there are some things we always do.
We always make fire at dusk:
Our recent fire ritual has included burning scraps of paper. We write down a hope, a wish, a dream, and send it out into the world as smoke. Or, we inscribe the paper with that which we want to release. Bad habits. Old hurt. Burned, carried away on the wings of ashes.
Waits has become quite enamored with Iron Man, so when I asked him what his wish for the new year was, all he kept saying was “Iron Man, mama! Iron Man!” And he asked me to draw him a picture of Iron Man on his scrap, and so we did (he helped), and then we came up with words to describe all the reasons he likes Iron Man.
And after the sun was down and the last of the light was gone . . .
Split pea soup, roasted root veggies, spinach salad, crusty bread. Which led to . . .
In Winter Solstices past, we used to read this one poem every year. We would sit in a big circle, and one by one we would go around sharing our thoughts regarding darkness; our reflections on that past year. And invariably, it would be one of the grown-ups’ turns, and instead of speaking they would pull The Book from under their pillow. And all of the kids would groooooan, “No, not that goose poem again!”
Except me. I wouldn’t groan, because I am a sentimental sap, and because also, I really love that goose poem. It is my Winter Solstice poem, and the night wouldn’t be complete without it.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Blessings as you move towards light,
♥ Sayward ♥