Celebrating Solstice

solstice

by Karen Roberts

Meet Karen Roberts

Karen Roberts is a writer and artist living in Kansas, USA,  who also happens to work as a Nurse Practitioner. She stumbled on to Soul Food a few years ago and first toured Lemuria with Le Enchanteur in 2005. Since then she has been in and out of the kingdom, and finds it to be a magical place of infinite welcome and possibility. She is a near-Solstice baby, having been born on December 23rd, and despite loving Solstice, really feels she got gypped on the birthday thing! As a health care professional, she feels compelled to say that creative work in general, and Soul Food in particular, are healing in ways that most medicines only dream of.

A Christmas Memory

cedar

Growing up on a farm, you got as much as you could from the land. We had seen fancy artificial trees in town, most notably a silver one with blue lights and matching baubles. Man, it was mod. But we couldn’t convince my parents of the value of such a tree, and so once again in early December, we walked through the fields.

We had our pick of scrubby cedars. No soft white or Douglas pines, no firs or balsams, just Eastern Red Cedars lined up along the fencerow like soldiers, catching the cold Kansas wind. Every house has a line of them situated on the north of the property for a windbreak. Cedars relieve the monotony of gently rolling cultivated land, halting the eye, marking the property line and giving shelter to wildlife.

The Eastern Red Cedar is the only native evergreen in Kansas, but once it falls outside of its neat, farmer-approved lines, it becomes quite a nuisance. The little blue berries, which decorated my mudpies and grass “salads” as a child, are spread by birds and other wildlife, successfully germinating in places no one wants them—pastures, fields, feedlots. The list of instructions for ridding one’s property of rogue cedars includes chopping and then burning—twice. They don’t go down without a fight.

Late in the afternoon we would agree on a tree, one that had stepped out of line and stood solitary and defiant in a field or pasture. My dad would lie down on the snowy ground and reach under the tree like a farmwife looking for eggs under a hen. He’d cut it down with a handsaw and release the smell of the wood. The smell is harsh, ragged. It’s the smell of your brain’s closet being lined with fresh planks, the smell of a place that will hold all memories filed under “Childhood Christmas” forever and ever. We’d drag the tree back to the pickup and then stuff it through the large living room window. The reddish wood oozed sticky sap, and the needles were rough and scratchy, welting up our skin and falling in a circular stencil on the floor. Cedars are rather a dull brownish-green but they have a lovely shape, branches gracefully upturned like a smile. Mom strung the big multi-colored lights, and Dad straightened the tree about 12 times. My sister and I hung all of our ornaments, handmade and collected, and reminisced as each one emerged from the tissue paper. Then tinsel, garlands of it, and finally icicles, meant to be applied individually, but ultimately thrown on by the handful when we tired of the job. Presents appeared over the coming days.

The house smelled everywhere of cedar. Of Christmas. The tree stood in the unheated room all day, waiting for us to rush in with a cloud of frosty breath to look for new packages to shake. Each night we’d light a fire and lie beneath it. It stayed up until after the New Year, when Dad dragged it out past the garden and burnt it, returning it to the land.

The scent of cedar in a cold room—on the rare occasion when I encounter it—reminds me of those days, days when the Christmas tree wasn’t in a Rubbermaid bin under the stairs, or in a parking lot outside the grocer, but in the next field over, just an hour’s walk from the house.

 

Day Twenty One

Winter Solstice is the power cycle of the Raven. Ravens tell us that each one of us has inside us an enchantress; a magician.

Winter Solstice

raven

The solstice marks the longest night of the year in my hemisphere. It often happens that at this time of year, a time which is meant to be happy and full of cheer, we find our souls reflecting the long darkness of this night. Solstice is the perfect time to go quietly within ourselves and allow our minds and hearts to settle, just for one moment, in the silence of this long dark night.

There. That’s it. Now listen: Isn’t that a blessed silence? Feel the velvety darkness enfold you like a comforting blanket. Long dark nights of the soul and of the winter can be a time for despair, but they can also be a time for rest, for awaiting, and for preparing a new space for what is to come.

For tomorrow, the light returns, and each successive day will become infinitesimally longer, almost unnoticeably at first, but eventually, by late winter, we will once again believe that spring will come, growth will ensue, and we will have endured, once again, the long dark night. In fact, we will find, to our surprise, that in the long winter, while all seemed bare up above, growth continued down below, beneath the frozen earth.  We are more deeply rooted in our identity, more fully becoming who we are meant to be….

Winter Solstice is the power cycle of the Raven. Ravens tell us that each one of us has inside us an enchantress; a magician. A natural force, elemental, in fact, that has the power to change us, slightly, or---even better—radically.  Solstice is a time of preparing for that change, of resting, and watching. Of allowing the mystery to fill us, to fill the darkness of the long night. Let the darkness wash you clean, and open to the light of what is to come. Prepare a place of welcome, for you will be reinvented.  Such is the magic of Solstice.

by Karen Roberts

Global Solstice Activity

Winter Wonderland

As I write about Winter Solstice, I am aware that for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Summer Solstice. These days have diametrically opposing feelings attached to them, in my experience.
Summer Solstice, for me, is a time for celebration and enjoying the long daylight hours, while paying less attention to the fact that soon the days will be getting shorter. Somehow in the golden heat and sunlight, it is more of a time to live for the moment.
Winter Solstice, on the other hand, is a time of introspection and waiting; waiting for that light to start returning. The darkness is often hard for us, but we must realize that for the light to exist, there must be darkness.
Both Solstices, however, are wonderful times to address the balance in your life. We all need balance, but it is often a hard commodity to come by in today’s world.

Solstice Activities

Here are a few Solstice activities to help you focus on the idea of balance.

  1. Draw a large sun (Summer Solsticers) or moon (Winter Solsticers). Now draw a line down the center.  On one half, make a list of the things in your life that you feel are dark and heavy….and on the other, things that bring light into your life.  Examples could be a stressful job (dark), a loving relationship (light).  Are you spending more of your energy on the dark side, or the light?
  1. Now turn over your sun or moon and bisect it once again. This time, think of the dark side as rest/soul feeding activities and the light side as activities which demand an output of energy.  This part of the exercise reminds us that everything has a positive and a negative aspect, just as the Solstices encompass darkness and light, rest and activity, waxing and waning.
  1. Spend some time thinking about your lists. Do you feel your life is balanced, at least somewhat? If not, what do you want to change? How can you spend more of your time and energy in balance—engaging in activities that bring a feeling of light, but creating time for rest and introspection also? What energy drains can you let go of? What joy can you add? This type of emotional housecleaning is a perfect Solstice activity.

Once you’ve journaled, meditated, or created art based on your exercise, go spend some time nature. Even if it’s hot, even if it’s cold and dark. Go outside and feel the sun on your face. Go out under the stars. Feel the earth turning and your solid place on it. Breathe in. Breathe out. Commit to balance until the next solstice.