Friday, December 18, 2009

The darkest night is coming....

but then we move toward the light steadily, every day brightening second by second, imperceptibly yet irreversibly. What relief!

I've spent time researching the winter solstice this month. Many of our Christmas habits find their origin, in fact, in solstice traditions. The lights on our houses and trees, our varieties of candles, pine wreaths, the Yule log, wassail... all of these are related to the quieting of nature, the dimming of light that reaches its depth on December 21. Christmas bears these transported symbols well enough, since Jesus Christ is often compared to light, even the stumbling-over-themselves-with-awe hyperbole offered by the Gospel writers: "Light of the World."

Solstice holds a lot of potential for creating a metaphorical framework of darkness giving way to light. While we still love our Christmas, it felt like a good time to re-up, to take that "longing for light" feeling and do something practical with it. So we're celebrating solstice on Monday night this year. A few of the things we're doing excite me:
  • Giving handmade gifts to each other
  • Creating a huge bonfire with last year's Christmas tree
  • Tossing notes into that fire (one set: regrets from the previous year; one set: hopes and wishes for coming year)
  • Making lanterns out of food cans (using hammer and nails, you puncture the cans in decorative patterns, glue gun a tea light to the bottom and light them, lining your drive and walk ways)
  • Making beeswax candles from Hearthsong
  • Rolling pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed to create ornaments on our pines and firs for our visiting backyard birds
  • Drinking wassail
  • Turning off the electricity for the evening and living by candlelight
  • Reading poetry about light and dark, nature, hope over regret and loss
  • Painting tea light holders for candles
Of course, one of the traditions is to clean your home thoroughly and a friend of mine uses lavender water to make the indoor space sweet-smelling. My kids ka-bashed this idea, saying you don't clean on holidays. :) I'll take care of it for them since my idea of putting away darkness and inviting light includes ridding the corners of dust bunnies and cobwebs.

Since you can't join me, feel free to list your regrets (if you feel inward permission to do it) and your hopes and wishes for the coming year in the comments section. I'll type them up, print them out and toss them onto our bonfire for you. I have been ruminating about both for some time. Even the process of contemplating regrets balanced against hope has been cleansing.

Thank you for being a source of light in a dark year for me (all of you who have been especially supportive). In case you wonder, we are well enough (all of us)... we're coming through the hard part and moving into what feels like release and hope. There's something to be said for going through a passage of dark waters. None of us wants to. We don't volunteer for it. But when you go through, you learn about yourself and about others which promotes awe, compassion and love. So much better than hiding or pretending. (In case you were wondering...)

May you move gently into the womb of darkness this weekend.


jo(e) said...

What an inspiring post.

My kids also reject the idea that the house should be clean (or more to the point, the idea that they should be doing the cleaning). They figure that's the point of candleight and firelight -- it hides the dirt and clutter!

onlyhuman said...

I agree.. this is wonderful and a reminder to get back into this.. celebrating the Solstice, which I used to do. I have always loved the idea of going into the heart of night and awaiting the rebirth of light.. in any form that takes. Always reminded me of those silent holy moments just before a baby is born.

SUSAN said...

Julie, I absolutely love your thoughts and words and actions, as you celebrate Solstice this year! I will write something for you to throw in the fire. I appreciate the way you are honoring the darkness and the light.


Kansas Bob said...

"But when you go through, you learn about yourself and about others which promotes awe, compassion and love."

I am still learning.. something about an old dog and tricks.

Glad you are well Julie. Hope your holidays are merry.

SUSAN said...

Here's mine:

If you have time, toss mine in the fire. Hope y'all have a wonderful celebration!

Regrets: All the ways that I've let fear hold me back and make my life smaller.

Hope: To live into Joseph Campbell's words, "We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”


julieunplugged said...

Done, Susan. I also photographed it in the flames. We had such a wonderful night. Better than Christmas. Awesome traditions.

Mike said...

a little late to the fire ritual but regrets for 2009 include a lack of willingness (motivated by fear) to trust my own judgment and call things what they really are...for better or worse. May 2010 be a year with no (irrational) fear, and with (brutal) honesty with myself.

Julie glad that all of you are doing well...

kimmy said...

So glad your family enjoyed observing the Solstice this year! It is my most favorite celebration!

Your evening sounded perfect!