It is winter solstice today. This story came to mind of a much younger me living in Alaska…
In December, the sun dips low in the peach and lavender sky at 1 PM in Fairbanks, Alaska. Night begins to fall slowly at that latitude. When I lived there I learned to embrace the darkness lest I get claustrophobic in the small confines of our cabin. Dressed in layers of wool with a headlamp, I’d go chop firewood, shovel snow, or better yet, go out for a night ski. We lived on Yellow Snow Rd., aptly named for the many dog teams that lived on it so there were plenty of dog trails to ski on in the neighborhood.
Hoar frost was an event. At subfreezing temperatures, moisture present in the air would freeze in a crystalline structure and collect on the surfaces of branches eventually coating them in a sparking beard of white. At 10 below zero to 10 degrees above, a hoar frost provided the perfect conditions to ski.
We have arrived at the Winter Solstice, the tipping point where we in the N. Hemisphere mark the point where the earth will begin to rotate back to the sun’s full exposure. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. While our modern calendar denotes it as the first day of winter, I and others from the time of the ancients mark it as the return of the light each day forward, bit by bit. It is a time of hope and new beginnings – like a solar New Year.
In a couple of hours, a few friends will gather at my home, take a walk, circle around a bonfire, sharing readings and thoughts. We will also toss into the fire the things we are hoping to leave behind. There are plenty for this year 2020 that I don’t even need to mention. As we turn the corner in the heavens, let us heal from these disasters and let the fires of hope burn bright.
Here we are, December 21, 2017, the shortest day of the year or the longest night depending on how you look at it. For centuries ancient peoples have celebrated this event. It is a time of reflection and hope. The light will be returning again. It is no accident that Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 AD chose Christ’s birth to be celebrated around this event. Before this date, there was no history of Christmas being celebrated, but there were festivals around the Winter Solstice. (For an interesting history of Christmas click here).
My long-time women friends and I had our annual gathering yesterday. We shared a meal, poetry, and stories together. As usual, it was lovely. Here is a poem I wrote for the event…