Thursday, December 22, 2011

Contemplating the Winter Solstice in the Southernmost State

So, the Winter Solstice dawns.  In other parts of the world, darkness has taken over.  Beth Adams, who lives in a much more northern part of our continent has written an eloquent blog post, where she concludes, "I know from experience that times of obscurity are often followed by insight, darkness by light, and that the two are necessary for each other, but that wisdom comes from being observant to this very moment: the weak light, the clarity of ice. Today that paper-thin edge of duality — that single but two-sided coin — turns its face, but neither one is better than the other. I believe in long journeys, the persistence of love, and the value of endurance: my face in the stinging cold, my feet that want to slip on the ice but find their balance, the sun’s eventual return."

And yet, I live in a place where the sun never really retreats too far:

The sunrise this morning will be similar to the sunrise in September, when I took the picture above.  The days are a bit shorter, and I can stay out a smidge longer without risking a blistering sunburn, but a South Florida December is different from what people in the upper 48 experience.

Still, I understand the desire for light, for candles for anything to stave off the darkness.  Just because the sun never leaves us doesn't mean we're immune from feeling despair about the state of the world.

Last night I went downtown to First Lutheran to help serve dinner to the homeless.  We had more people, over 130, than we've ever had in the three years that I've been helping.  And it was a warm night, not the kind of cold night that usually increases the numbers.  The words of Isaiah rumble through my head: 

"They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations." (Isaiah 61: 4)

We have a lot of building up to do down here in this part of the world, with its abandoned condo projects and deserted strip malls and foreclosed buildings of every shape and size.

More candles!

In these days when it's easy to succumb to despair, I will remember the lessons of Vaclav Havel, to live as if liberation has already come.  I will sing back against the darkness.

We are like these finger puppets below, and we can fill ourselves with any number of ideas.  It's easy to fill up with despair as we see the broken bodies shuffling down the street, as we hear of governments who can't solve problems.  But we must resist the seductiveness of despair.

Havel said, "We may approach democracy as we would a horizon, and do so in ways that may be better or worse, but it can never be fully attained.”  You could slot any number of words in for that word "democracy."  Maybe it's your creative masterpiece.  Maybe it's the relationship with your spouse, best friends, or family members.  Maybe it's a goal at work or the home renovations that never seem to end.  So few processes are linear, after all.

We are like medieval Cathedral builders or Eastern European dissidents; we work towards a vision, knowing we may not see it in our lifetimes.  That knowledge does not allow us to quit the work.

Our lives are a patchwork, and sometimes, those pieces go together more neatly than others.  But hopefully, love stitches us together in strengthening ways.

Winter Solstice offers the consolation of a slow climb back to the light. 

Christianity tells us that the manger is empty now, but won't be for long.

South Florida gives us all sorts of twists on this tradition.  Our church has an extensive butterfly garden, and we change some of the statuary with the seasons.  Below you'll see mushrooms growing around the baby Jesus, an untraditional touch.  One year, we had a tomato seedling.  If I had a wider range on this picture, you'd also see Easter lilies in the back.  I'm still waiting for my poet brain to do something with these images.

May your solstice be filled with the promise of light!


Kathleen said...

Thanks for all this, and good wishes for light and wisdom to you, too!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Awesome post, Kristin. Thanks for these reflections. Love how you wove Vaclav Havel (may he rest in peace) in there. Cheers to the returning of the light.