Roaring, snapping, flickering fire. Blossoming to life beneath our hands, warming our bodies, beguiling our eyes, comforting our light-hungry spirits....
Entering the longest, darkest night of the Northern hemisphere, I long for fire.
The slow, mesmerizing dance of flames entrances human creatures in the way that only another elemental force—flowing water—can. Gaze upon this glorious, ever-changing, fulminating flower, and you are swallowed by the Now. You live your existence in leaping flames, free for a timeless moment from circling thoughts that pull you away from Here. You are fully present and still...at rest, at peace. Like calls to like: This living creature brightly burning in the darkness is an analog for the shining spark of life we each carry within.
Before dawn on this shortest of days, the solstice—stillness—held us so close, lulling us in sleep, whispering of rest, renewal; of cold things in stasis and warm, fur-bearing beings nestled deep in dens, noses tucked under tails.
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness, it has been said. Better yet to love both darkness and shadow—as essential and rightful to this world as light. For only in the deepest darkness can we see the endlessly roaring fires of the stars, and most wholly love both the darkness and the flame.
But for today, the Winter Solstice, Darkness is our music, and Light, our beloved dance partner.
The rain fell all day, out of a pewter sky, pelting away at mushy piles of snow. I wound garlands of blue twinkle lights around the picture window, the dining room door frame and the built-in buffet; a festive glow to lighten the dimness.
Dark as it is, the rain sounds like silver...hissing under tires, slurrying down icicles, ringing and puddling in crystal hollows. Silver is the color of December for me: Silver snow, moon, bells, stars. Silvershine, silverlight, silvershiver. The tiny, precious silver beads my mother used to decorate gingerbread men, that lay silver-sweet on my child's tongue.
I love both of these songs that have silver in their names—there is a sort of slow majesty about each of them. Adam Sparhawk and his wife Mimi Parker are the gorgeous voices in Low, an indie band based in Duluth, MN, that has opened for Radiohead and periodically tours around the world. Singer-songwriter Haley Bonar, from South Dakota, also lives in Minnesota and has opened for Low.
Fresh snow creak-crunches under my Timberlands and occasionally floofs from branches in muffled thumps. Conclaves of crows wheel among whirling white flakes, black wingtips stroking a ghosty sky that touches the ground everywhere and nowhere.
Today, I view the world through a soft, raining snow that dissolves as it touches my living eyes and skin, like rejuvenating polar eye drops whisked down fresh from the Arctic circle.
It is our first real snow of the winter, and after my winter wonderland walk, I'm drawn to snuggle down and revel in the quiet things I love: Reading. Writing. Daydreaming. Retreating slowly inward to meander through the deep, fairytale wood of the psyche. Not coincidentally, many of the favorite pursuits of an introvert (i.e., myself).
Another introverted individual, Susan Cain, presented a riveting TED talk to share her discoveries into the power of quiet in a new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I highly recommend you take a listen, if you Are, Love, or Have Befriended an introvert or two. And if you haven't, maybe her insights will persuade you to seek some of us out. We tend to be the quieter voices around the table; but trust me, there is a lot going on in there, people.
Our lives are richer when we honor the power of quiet—whether it's winter sending its long nights and silent snows, or going inward in search of deeper, less easy truths....
The air outside today was like a giant breath mint, so fresh and frosty-blue. I do believe it is winter edging into my December like a shy ice-spider, with as-yet wobbly young legs that are not completely traveling in the same direction.
Winter is our time to dream, imagine and knit together plans like bright potholders, or very long, stripey scarves; maybe even to come up with something we can't immediately identify, with more sleeves and neck holes than your typical human could use at one time, but nonetheless full of a weird potential.
So it is apropos that last winter Lee and I began talking about singing together with some musician friends in a one-off cover band, through a local rock camp for grown-ups. Lee plays the guitar, and I...well, I sing. For the past year, I've been learning how, anyway.I do not claim any great technical skill; but let's just say I have come a long way.
Saturday, we'll be on stage, at a bar, performing a set of Fleetwood Mac songs.
I am exciterrified.
But back to Fleetwood Mac. When I was a young woman, Stevie Nicks symbolized much that I wanted for myself and my life. Magic. Mystery. Artistry and the freedom to be uniquely myself. Feminine power, Welsh witchiness, and the same sense of wildness I felt within, but had no way to express.
Her Stevie-ness performing Rhiannon in 1976:
Many years have passed since I pored over the liner notes in my Rumours album, and daydreamed a wider, wilder life for myself. Now, in middle age, I'm still dreaming. I feel I'm just beginning to truly come into my power and magic, both as a woman and a whole human. Learning to take up my full share of space, assume my mantle of authority, share my gifts. Let my song be heard, as only I can sing it.
It is not that easy for me to do. It has required frequent pep talks from myself to myself, and daily fear calmings. It is worthwhile but not easy to be vulnerable, or to risk looking a fool, or to stand up there and sing that one note that I almost always screw up, even though I get most of them right.
Because I am not Stevie Nicks. But I am me, and I have to sing it anyway.
A misty day, very mild for December. Minneapolis is preparing for ice-in at Lake Hiawatha (I'll give you this link, though it seems uber-outdated to speak of "improving" what used to be a "swamp." Is it naive to expect a park board to, you know, have more connection with/respect for nature? I am that naive.).
In case, on some chillier date, you are walking on lake ice and fall through, it's a comfort to know that an emergency rescue board is handy. One emergency rescue board—so don't all fall in at the same time.
Someone maybe able to pull you out before you die of exposure...but if I were you, I'd stick to the shore for a good while yet.
If you're driving on lake ice—well, we won't say so, but you kind of deserve it.
If you are a bird, however, even thin ice lacks a danger quotient. It actually gives you one more place to hang out with your friends, and make a big racket. So you have that going for you.
A crow walks on water, both in her own mind and in actuality. They are talented creatures! And they know it.