The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice occurs tomorrow at 4:42 a.m. It marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and, logically, the longest night–the time when the sun seems farthest away from us.

You often hear that various solstice celebrations are rooted in some deep fear that, if we don’t coax the sun back, it will leave us forever. This may be true, but it bugs me, because it assumes our ancestors were morons. I mean, of course, there were morons then as there are now, and I would feel safe in saying that some fundamentalist segment of the population believed that the sun might leave us. Maybe they even stocked up on supplies in case this solstice really were the one that resulted in the end of the world.

But I also think that our ancestors, like us, were capable of aesthetic thought–poetic thought. And that they understood the perceived distance of the sun to be a metaphor more broadly applicable.

So, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that holidays that have sprung up around the solstice have to do with parties and gift-giving and the renewal of friendships. Just as the sun seems to move farther away until coaxed back with parties and gifts, so too do friendships and kinships ebb and flow. We coax the sun back in order to coax each other back, to renew old friendships and reestablish longtime bonds.

This solstice especially resonates for me because, right now, with the exception of the Butcher, everyone I care about is out of town. Many of them–Miss J and her lover, the Divine Ms. B, my recalcitrant brother, my parents–are on the verge of arriving. And others will be back right after the new year. But right now, I’m as far away from all the people I care about as I’m likely to be this year.

And so, I’m thinking about the earth circling the sun–or as my ancestors understood it, the sun circling the earth–moving away, moving closer, tilting towards each other, leaning away, and it reminds me of you–all you all, and how lucky I am to know you. As The Old Man says:

If you have a good friend, who you trust completely
Then go see him often.
For brambles grow and waving grass
On the rarely traveled road.
Go find a good man to hold in friendship
And listen carefully to his healing words.

I don’t get to see you as often as I’d like and I miss you guys. I hope you all have a happy holiday season.