Great minds think alike. On Tuesday night, in southern Virginia, Randy Fiery felt the coming arrival of the Solstice moon (Thursday, 10:27 PM, eastern time), so he went outside and took advantage of the clear night sky to snap a photo of the full moon.
Then he began to write:
Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.
Then Randy continued to write:
A new day is upon us. The Winter Solstice is here. It is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. And it is believed that we humans have been celebrating this day for countless generations. Anthropologists say that solstice celebrations go back 30,000 years.
Count your fingers and count your toes. Yes, we are still breathing, still meandering through this big old, goofy world.
I know that some of you are getting a wee bit older and are looking in the face of impermanence. But I believe that on this day we can all feel a little younger. Take a deep breath and consider that magical stuff may be lurking in the air and sky.
Speaking of the sky, it just so happens that a pair of owls have moved into my neighborhood. I have not seen these owls, but I frequently hear them between midnight and 4 AM.
Their call is distinctive. They are Great Horned Owls: birds that have a wingspan of 3-5 feet. They are big, silent and deadly.
So last night, in honor of the Winter Solstice, I decided to celebrate.
It was 3 AM and the temperature was in the high 30s. Dressed in my best pajamas and a good pair of slippers I headed out into the night. I had a flashlight, but I did not turn it on. I went to my garden and sat down on a small stool made of West Virginia hemlock. I was able to locate one of the birds by his call, but my flashlight was not powerful enough to see the owl.. Darkness, silence and the shrill “hooting” of the owl was enough.
I did not see that giant bird as winter came to me. But the good news is that the neighbors did not call the police. The neighbors did not go to the local mental health center to report an elderly man in his pajamas, with a flashlight wandering around in the neighborhood. Yes, things can always be worse.
I am lucky on this winter day, just knowing that big birds are hanging out in my neighborhood.
And best of all, I’m glad that I know each of you.
(Then he added two poems)
Meantime, hundreds of miles to the north, Laura Vecsey saw the very same moon, hovering over the hillside at Goose Hollow, N.Y.
Laura is herself a poet, among her many talents, but she let the moon do the talking, high above the new fence that keeps in the pups and, theoretically, keeps out the deer and the coyotes and the porcupines and other wildlife.
She added some emojis and the message, "Happy Solstice!!!"
Did I say, great minds think alike? As it happens, Laura's mother and Randy Fiery both have ancestors with the same family name, Whipple -- dating back to the 17th Century, probably different entry points. But enough genes in common to be under the spell of a nearly full moon, the incoming Solstice.
This all deserves a Solstice poem.
From Nadia Colburn's lovely website,
Snowy Night by Mary Oliver
Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.
What better way to celebrate the solstice than with some winter solstice poems? I've chosen some poems to help you savor this time of year. Jump to the poems below.
It’s no wonder that throughout history at this dark time of year, people around the world have celebrations of light: Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa all celebrate the miracle of light in dark times.
Unfortunately, our society often overlooks the creative and more spiritual side of our traditions. The holidays become times to buy and eat more. But rather than consume more external things, we can treat this dark time as an invitation to wonder and re-ignite our own internal fire.
If we want to ignite our inner fire, we need to go inward. It's true that what we might find there may be our own darkness, not just the reflection of others’ darkness. But if we sit with our own pain, we will also be able to sit with our own wonder and process of transformation, which is its own kind of light.
And even in the darkness, as winter solstice reminds us, there is light and still more light to come: tomorrow we come get just a bit closer to the sun again.
These poems remind us of the light around and within us.
The practice of writing can also remind us of the power of light, of rebirth in darkness, or miracles when it seems that the light is running low. I hope you'll enjoy some prompts at the end of the poems.
So even in this busy holiday season, take some time to get comfortable and settle down with a pen and paper.
Colborn also includes a solstice poem by the great Kentucky poet and environmentalist, Wendell Berry. (I wrote about him a year ago.)