Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Thursday we'll be celebrating the Solstice
As the sun goes down on the day of the Winter Solstice, in our household we celebrate by lighting candles at sunset to celebrate the return of the light. The exact nature of the ceremony depends on our extremely variable December weather, ranging from arctic wind chills some years to balmy thaws other years.
This was one of the best. Four years ago we went to one of our favorite locations, a little cove on Lake Mendota here in Madison. The weather was about in the middle of the spectrum. We'd seen better, and we'd seen worse. It was cold, the wind was whipping off the freezing but not yet frozen lake, and icy stalactites were hanging from the rocky outcroppings. We needed something more than our little plastic cups to shelter the candles, and as luck would have it, when we climbed down the hillside to our secluded retreat, we found that somebody had already prepared a sort of Solstice altar for us. It was as if Andy Goldsworthy had passed by and just happened to throw together a little stone cairn on the spur of the moment. Or maybe it was one of his followers like Marissa. The miniature neolithic construction felt primal and ritualistic, and it seemed as if we were marking the Solstice at our own private Stonehenge, built by someone who had passed by earlier.
How will we celebrate this Thursday? Judging from the weather forecast, it will probably be a ritual involving umbrellas.