Solstice Eve

‘I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic.’
-Jack London

This photo of the waves at Ocean Beach this fall makes me think of my favorite quote by Jack London — he of the stories of the far north; a local boy — especially tonight, on the Solstice. As I look out the window of my little room in Sebastopol, the sky is streaming pink clouds and the moon is, if not full, then nearly.

[Tonight’s sky, December 2007.]

I’m not really religious, though I celebrate Christmas secularly, and Chanukah (and Passover, and Rosh Hashanah), and sometimes Easter, too — no, for me, my favorite ‘holiday’ is the Winter Solstice, because while it means the long, cold months of the year are just ahead, it also begins the lengthening of days until summer bursts forth again.

[I have to remember this in late February, when it seems the chilly grey rain will never end; I am an ‘all sun’ girl to be sure.]

[Rocks at Ocean Beach, September 2007.]

Today is December 22, and the year is nearly over — the dinner parties of the past 12 months blur into one long, happy memory; all the dishes are washed and neatly put away, waiting for an opportunity to be brought out in 2008; the jars of applesauce are quickly dwindling, after being distributed as holiday gifts; the oven is finally taking a well-deserved rest; and I am reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” to put myself in the proper holiday spirit.

“But that was not the same snow,” I say. “Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.”

How could one not feel holiday-ish after reading something like that, I ask you?

There won’t be a white Christmas where I am in California, of course, but I hope at least for a few days without rain. My tradition for many years was to go to Bodega Head at the Solstice and watch the sun set low over the ocean if it was clear, but this year there wasn’t time; we’ve postponed the trip until Tuesday, after breakfast and present-opening.

[Clementines, December 2007.]

I have just a bit of baking to do yet (an apple pie; some low-fat cookies or treats) and many presents to wrap, but these are the fun things, really. I get to hang out with my brother for four more whole days, and there is no work to attend to for at least a week. Tonight I am taking a deep breath and stretching out my arms, sore from yoga class this morning, to feel grateful for this first day of winter, this time, this food, this life.

Happy holidays.

Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

(Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”)

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