Only four more days and I can celebrate the Winter Solstice!
I don’t like cold and I don’t like dark, so reaching the cusp, looking over the crest and down toward warmer and lighter days warms me. January marks the onslaught of seed catalogs, and they can’t arrive a moment too soon. A friend refers to the bounty of catalogs as “garden porn.”
What a perfect word choice! Slowly I turn the pages of the glossy catalogs brimming with flowers – all in full bloom – none faded or drooping with blight. Aphids? What aphids? The unblemished, heritage vegetables, straight from Grandma’s garden, get my heart racing. I lick my lips and savor the fruits on offer. Taking in the scent of the flowers, I inhale deeply. My fantasy garden takes off. I am a porn star, and we will film in the garden across the arched bridge inside the gazebo next to the water feature under the weeping willow.
I’m sorry to have missed Custer County’s annual Christmas Chorale. How heart-warming it is to sit in the pews at Hope Lutheran Church and listen to seasonal music sung by choristers from various denominations (and members of none) singing from the same songbook. On concert day, it seems that regardless of our varied doctrines, we hold shared values in common.
The feeling of oneness grows and by the time we get to “O Holy Night,” we have risen above the disheartening nightly news and are primed to visualize peace on earth where it is easy to imagine the lion lying down with the lamb.
“Rise above it, rise above it, leave your Earthly cares behind…
Some years ago when we lived in London, I undertook the Quaker Quest, a six-week introduction to the Quaker way. I found sitting in silence difficult. The first week we had to sit in silence for ten minutes, and each week thereafter, another ten minutes were added until… by the sixth week, we were up to an hour of uninterrupted silence. As the weeks when by, sitting in silence became somewhat easier, but, for me, the silence was very definitely “work.”
After I completed the course, I attended a number of meetings at our local Quaker meeting-house. I was undecided about my level of commitment, but when Christmas arrived, the lack of music, the failure to make a joyful noise spelled the end. From that point on, I did not return to the assembly.
December 17th The Writer’s Almanac shared “Winter Grace” a poem by Patricia Fargnoli. She writes of walking through the snow on a winter’s evening… she writes of “flakes settling on your parka / like the dust from just-born stars, / the cold waking you / as if from long sleeping, / then you can understand / how, more often than not, / truth is found in silence.”
I’m not so sure about finding truth in silence. I understand the Quaker quest for self-knowledge and inner peace and I understand Fargnoli’s total immersion in a cold silent night, but I am most alive in the company of others. I need the shared common experience that comes with stories and music. I need the reassurance that I am not alone. I am one of many.
Looking ahead to the Winter Solstice, I need to be thinking of the personal traits and memories that haunt and hold me back. Taking account, I will write them down, and when the bonfire blazes, I will throw the past into the fire and move forward into the new year.
What baggage will you throw on the bonfire?