Where We Live
by Steve Carr
Here Comes the Sun
Every day, we’re gaining on summer
Take heart and be joyous.
We may still have over four months to go until the first day of summer, but from here on out, every day will be just a little bit brighter.
At 0022 Greenwich Mean Time on December 22, thousands of druids, crystal-heads and spiritual seekers celebrated the winter solstice at Stonehenge, England, as people have been doing for many, many moons.
The winter solstice is one of those special days of the year that really matter. It signifies the shortest day well, actually the shortest amount of daylight and it signals a change in the sun’s direction.
When humans were in their infancy, the seasons were pretty much a mystery until some clever guys began to see regular patterns in the sky. For instance, they noticed the sun followed a predictable path, and they developed stone sun markers that tracked the sun’s movements and told them when the winter season reached its peak at the solstice. From that point on, the sun priests knew the daylight hours would increase, and they could use this wondrous astronomical secret to tell their people when to plant their crops. This was the prehistoric equivalent of magic.
I Am the North
Look to the North and what will you see?
Icicles and frost in an endless sea.
I live in the wilds of the Arctic gale;
the snow is my head and the wind is my tail.
My favorite song is the Frozen Blast
and from December to March it is cued up to last.
On the Solstice I’m happy ‘cause it’s my time to dance,
and the world becomes dark as if lost in a trance.
The days are so short and the nights are so cold,
your thoughts freeze together and you do what you’re told.
‘Cause the North takes no guff,
and the North takes no crap.
The North is in charge,
so just button your yap.
And break out the whiskey and
crack open a beer,
‘Cause the North likes strong drink
and some holiday cheer.
The world still needs all the magic it can get.
So at 7:22pm on the winter solstice, I gathered with my nature-loving friends at a colonial-era farm on the Lower Broadneck to celebrate the coming of the light.
Over the years, my solstice brothers and sisters have put together a ritual, and this year I was asked to be the north.
We gathered around the fire pit in a big circle and joined hands.
My friend Stewart welcomed us to the winter solstice festivities, saying a few words about the celestial and seasonal significance of this time in space.
Then, we greeted the points of the compass, starting with the East, followed by the South and West. Then came the North.
It is customary for each compass person to read a poem about the direction they represent, something like, “I am the East. I bring the morning sun.”
As North, I composed my own heavenly poem about how winters mean cold weather, and there’s no way around that chilling fact.
We always add a little art to the ceremony by creating a wooden symbol of some sort. One year it was a 30-foot-tall burning man. This year it was a sun shield that looked like a giant Zuni firebird. It was carefully placed on the top of the woodpile; then it was time for the yule log. The yule log was a large piece of pine sprinkled with a bit of kerosene for added flavor. We always save some of the previous year’s yule log from which we light the new one. Throw the burning yule log on the woodpile, and everything goes up in flames.
That’s where the woes come in.
Near the bonfire sits a pile of pine boughs cut from the yule log. Each person takes one and shakes it before the rising flames while silently determining the greatest woe of the year: the loss of a loved one or maybe a wish not fulfilled. You can only pick one. Once you have settled on your greatest woe, you cast the branch and your woe into the fire. All gone.
The Magic Works
Every time I celebrate the winter solstice, I feel like I am part of the human family, because I know that people all over the world are also venturing outside to welcome the return of the sun except, of course, for the poor folks in the southern hemisphere who are looking at the waning light. But what goes around comes around, and each half of the globe gets to say hello and goodbye to the sun every year.
Up here in the north, we’re already three weeks closer. I bet you can already feel the warmth.