I love this picture, which was taken by “Madison Guy” – who has taken a number of pictures which found their way onto my Yule Series posts. In fact, this was the first picture of his that I found over at flickr, that sort of prompted the whole Yule Series concept and also got me interested in using some of his work. He’s a nice guy, a great photographer, and he lives in one of my favorite cities… Madison, Wisconsin – which was the first city I moved to when I finished college at Gallaudet many years ago. Madison is where I first started my serious study of Paganism, Women’s Spirituality, and the Goddess… and even today a lot of people there are still quite Pagan-friendly.
Actually this is a Solstice picture that Madison Guy took a couple of years ago. Here’s the commentary on the photo as originally posted over at flickr:
As the sun goes down on the day of the Winter Solstice, in our household we celebrate by lighting candles at sunset to celebrate the return of the light. The exact nature of the ceremony depends on our extremely variable December weather, ranging from arctic wind chills some years to balmy thaws other years. This was one of the best. In 2002 we went to one of our favorite locations, a little cove on Lake Mendota here in Madison. The weather was about in the middle of the spectrum. We’d seen better, and we’d seen worse. It was cold, the wind was whipping off the freezing but not yet frozen lake, and icy stalactites were hanging from the rocky outcroppings. We needed something more than our little plastic cups to shelter the candles, and as luck would have it, when we climbed down the hillside to our secluded retreat, we found that somebody had already prepared a sort of Solstice altar for us. It was as if Andy Goldsworthy had passed by and just happened to throw together a little stone cairn on the spur of the moment. Or maybe it was one of his followers like Marissa. The miniature neolithic construction felt primal and ritualistic, and it seemed as if we were marking the Solstice at our own private Stonehenge, built by someone who had passed by earlier.
I kept telling myself that I was going to use this picture at some point during the Solstice Season, but I was never able to put together a post that seemed just right for it, or that would do it justice.
So tonight I am putting it up… not to honor the beginning of Solstice, but rather the ending of it. It seems appropriate for such. Somehow, this feels like just the right place and just the right picture for such an ending.
I have to agree with Madison Guy – as far as places to sit and honor the Spirits in all their natural aspects, this has to be one of the best. There is something very evocative about this place… it does indeed feel quite primal and ritualistic, and at the same time it feels very meditative, very sacred, and very spiritual. Yes, it may be damp and cold, but one gets the sense you would hardly feel the chill – you’re too busy being swept away by the sands of time, as you journey back to ancient days and ancient ways.
I can imagine myself there now, kneeling before that stone cairn, lighting the candles sheltered by the big rock. I can close my eyes and take a deep breath and ground myself to the heartbeat of the earth, and at the same time think about the future and what it brings, and what I hope to accomplish in the new year.
This past year has been a difficult one, as I struggled with issues that tested my body, mind, and spirit… which challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally. There were times when I literally felt like one of those icicles we can see perilously clinging onto the edge of the cliff, scared that any minute I might lose my grip and fall, shattering into a million tiny pieces.
I’m still hanging on… but somehow I don’t feel quite so scared any more. I’ve weathered the storm, and I think things are going to turn out okay. Maybe not perfect, but then perfection is overly rated anyway.
I’ve made a move that while on the surface may not seem ideal, I believe was actually the right thing for me – it’s given me a chance to reconnect to the things that are truly important… family, home, memories, traditions. A chance to reconnect to that from whence I came, the source of my greatest strengths.
I’ve started a blog that has brought me new connections, and new friendships. While finding the momentum to keep putting up posts on a regular basis hasn’t always been easy, it has been gratifying. I hope to be able to keep the momentum going, although I do think that many of us bloggers go through cycles – periods where we churn out posts faster than our fingers can type, and periods where we simply can’t come up with a good thought, or the energy to find the words to express it.
I think I might be going through one of those quiet moments now. I might not blog as frequently as I did in the past. But that’s okay. Perhaps this is what the spirits that reside inside that stone cairn are trying to tell me – it’s okay to take some time to be silent. There are always periods when we need to retreat… to refresh, to renew, to rejuvenate.
And then we can return… stronger, wiser, and eager to start the journey and take on new adventures.
As I face the new year, here’s hoping for bigger and better things.