We chased the sunset; flying due west across the Southern United States at sunset on the Solstice of 2014. This final day of descent into darkness in the Northern Hemisphere has always been notable to me. In the last few years Solstice prayers and hopes have been etched on heart and they played out their mysteries in the months that followed. It isn’t the darkness that catches my attention. It is the echo of rituals past when people and the earth sang together, danced together in mutual care and respect.
Solstice is an intractable physical event; like puberty or menopause, birth and death. An astrological alignment of sun and earth described in light and shadow expressing constants floating in a sea of other potential outcomes. All this drama played out right here in our own intimate corner of the universe. These behemoth players dance the archetypes of sacred interrelationships on a planetary stage of constant change. For the early watchers, when survival was more primordial, the daily sunset was mortality, the sunrise a prayer of gratitude.
The Solstice is the shortest day, the least light, the final exhale of this solar year. Seems worth a few moments of contemplation amidst digital distractions of pre Christmas cheer. Our 21st century world is not a jazzy hologram or fantastical computer generated image, but a living breathing entity. We the humans, are here, because there is a “here.” All that happens in the physical realm is “that” which allows us a life in the physical. We are all part of this beautiful planet earth and one of her children. It would seem reasonable to listen to “Mom” now and then, give a hand up to those in need, and say thanks once in a while for our ride on this fantastic space ship.
I was reminded this year to mark the darkest day by an explorer in the realms of plant devas. An in-training Anam cara of the apple tree has reminded those of us who listen of the olde practice of wassailing. A sweet and chilly practice of going to the trees that feed us in summer to give encouragement in their hardest and darkest days. The grace of warm breath amongst chilly trees, human voices singing out support, grateful hearts banishing dark spirits who would bruise and maim the creators of food and fruit. Marking miracles makes sense.
Attend the last breath
makes the next breath feel so sweet.