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December 22, 2012

Because of the wild storm, winter solstice came a day late for the Youngman’s. We had planned our annual gathering for the night prior but, given the sort of traffic that comes with having 30+ people out to your homestead, we decided against turning our driveway into soup.

For as long as we have been living in this house, which I think is 17 years now, I cannot remember a year when we did not have a winter solstice party. Like a house packed with friends for Thanksgiving, it has become an institution, a ritual that a lot of people expect to happen. I admit that I have not been as invested or involved in the solstice celebration in years past. Yes, I help get the house ready and chip away at the communal “to-do” list that my mom makes for all of our household events. But I had yet to really feel connected to what was happening nor did I usually stick around for the party.

Leading up to this year was no different than years past: change over the beeswax candles in the candlestick holders, vacuum the dog hairs out from every corner on the main floor, buy festive cups from Meijer, soak up my mother’s stress if we are running behind, etc. etc. I went through the motions, feeling uninspired but nonetheless committed to making sure we pulled it off. People showed up, we ate some delicious food and talked and laughed. Eventually it was time for the ceremony so everyone bundled themselves against the cold, December night air.

As you can see from the picture below, the setting was beautiful. The moon was out and the sky clear and crisp. A perfect night to “bring in the light,” a phrase that I must’ve heard leave my mom’s mouth hundreds of times over the years when describing “what the solstice is all about.” I helped my dad prepare the fire around which everyone gathered; old frames from our bee hives provided a bit of excitement as they shot up in sparks and red glow. Almost as good as fireworks.

Like moths to a flame (quite literally), our gathering assembled, spreading out in a circle so that everyone got a bit of heat from the fire. My mom had written a script that she enlisted my dad and me to read; then Nancy called the directions, shaking an egg as we slowly shuffled around in a circle. The final ritual consisted of tossing pine boughs into the fire, thus “releasing a negative” into the flames, and eating an orange, thus “bringing in a positive.” Being a mob of aging liberals, a lot of people “released” a variation of “fucking Tea Party, Rick Snyder bullshit.” When it was my turn, I dropped my bough in to “release the angst and awkwardness of transitions,” because, duh, that’s my life right now, and ate some citrus for “creativity in those transitions.” I felt good about what I said and believe in serve as a positive mantra for me in the upcoming year.

While the winter solstice gathering has not magically become my most favorite tradition ever – it is tough to compete with a Youngman Thanksgiving – I think this year was a good step in a direction toward feeling at least more connected to what we do in our backyard every year itch friends. I find great value in the verbalize tigon and/or writing of one’s intentions and aspirations; the exercise of throwing my little branch in the fire and saying what I did transforms the idea into an expressed sentiment, i.e. this is what I want in the next year, World, just so you know. Intangible to tangible, implicit to explicit, thoughts to words. The next step is action. And I am excited.

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