Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thoughts at the Winter Solstice

Today is it. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we see less of the sun than any other day of the year. The sun has paused in its long trek toward my southern horizon and beginning tomorrow, it will begin to creep northward again. This is my favorite solstice. While I do need the change in seasons, I feel very content here in the well of winter. I love the darkness and the cold. I love the trees that have dropped their leaves and a sky that looks overcast and gray. But in reality, I think that what I really love is the contrast that I can create in the winter. I love building a fire in our fireplace and cozying up on the couch with my family when it's miserable outside. I love knitting warm hats and mittens for my children. I love making soups and hot chocolate to warm us and I love the way that the aromas of these warm foods, the pumpkin spice and roasted turkey and potatoes, hang over my house like a blanket. I know that this part of myself that loves the winter is a result of living the affluent life that I do. I am afforded the opportunity to build up an illusion of control over the natural elements. I can keep myself and my family warm and safe in our cocoon while it's freezing outside. This must be why I love winter like I do. I love feeling the cold bite of freezing rain on my nose only because I know that in a few minutes, after I open up the door that leads to the warm golden glow of my home, I will be warm. It's an illusion, I know, this control that I think I have. But for now, it's something that makes me happy.

We went to a winter solstice party last night which was very nice. They had a labyrinth set up in the back yard, made of tiny candles that outlined the path, and had someone softly playing vibraphone bells off in the distance (this family is a fairly well-know celtic rock band so they have a very nice assortment of instruments and talent. It was beautiful.) I walked the labyrinth by myself, and other than starting out the wrong direction and finding myself needing to jump around from path the path to find the correct one to lead to the middle (I wasn't the only one - I kept running across one of my past YRUU kids that was doing the same thing) it was very peaceful. I think the idea of a labyrinth is to clear your mind by the repetition of steps. Once I found the right path, I didn't need to think about where to walk next - I simply quietly and slowly strolled around within the candles with the soft bells dancing around my ears. I was able to let go of thinking about what presents I still needed to buy or what to make for the Christmas Eve party we'll be going to, or what to pack for our trip to Texas. My friends had a yule log set in the middle with a basket of branches beside it. I attached a branch to the log, looked up at the night sky, deeply breathed in the cold air and the smell of the campfire that was burning off in the distance, and put my spirit in a good place to start the new year.

Inside the house was full of food and wine and cider and friends who were sharing details of their lives and laughing and enjoying the company. I wonder why the pagan traditions have become so misunderstood and feared? There is a huge array of faiths and spirituality under the umbrella of "paganism," some of which I relate to, and some of which I absolutely don't. In my personal experience (which I freely admit is limited), I have seen those who claim paganism as their spiritual home to be deeply in love with the natural earth and committed to taking care of this, our home, I've seen their recognition of the importance of humans caring for each other, and I've seen a curiosity about and acceptance of other religions. I also feel a kinship with humans from thousands of years ago who noticed the track of the sun and, in the pagan tradition, celebrated the winter solstice as marking the return of the sun and the goodness that it brought to their lives (i.e. food). While I don't agree with every nuance of their lives or spiritual traditions (as I would say for all friends from all religious persuasions) I feel a marked gentleness and openness from my pagan friends that is often absent in some people from more modern and mainstream religions. My wish for the new year, marked by the clock of the sun which has been turning much longer than the human species has been around, is that this gentleness and openness and true compassion for our fellow humans will one day become more common than the judgmental and sanctimonious attitudes that I too often run across in everyday life.

Happy Solstice to you all.


fw said...

Well that sounds sort of magical and really nice.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

It's my favorite too.