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Winter Solstice 2018

The solstice dawned…well, to be truthful it is a stretch to say that it dawned at all. I awoke to a semblance of daylight only. Dank. Dark. Murk. Mizzle. Drizzle. The kind of rain that cannot bestir itself to proper precipitation. And why should it? It will drench you just the same.

I awoke to the kind of day that makes you want to stay in bed…or at least stay indoors…but dawn or not, this is the solstice: it needs be marked. The turning of the year. This year of all years, I need to mark its turning, away from the darkness and back into the light. Shortest day; longest night.

I mark the turning of the year by writing what can loosely be called a prayer. It is an acknowledgement and a letting go of all of the ‘bad’ or ‘painful’ stuff from the year, a thanksgiving for all of the blessings, a celebration of my own achievements, and a setting out of hopes and dreams and requests for support in the year to come.

For many years I typed all of this up and printed it out, but more recently I have hand-written it and not kept a copy which I now think is the way it should be done. On the solstice I read the prayer and then set it free. Generally, I have done this in the garden by setting fire to it, burying the fragments that remain in the earth. Fire and earth. As it turned out…this year it would be air and water.

A change, a seismic shift. It has been a year for those.

I sat up late one night and wrote the prayer, scribbling it in my work-book, then simply ripped the pages out. It has always a free-form heart-felt thing. This year, it started with what turned into a letter to Clive before moving on to its more usual form. A few tears in the writing of it…and a lot more in the reading of it when the day came.

In between, I had another ritual to perform. The bungalow, now finally empty, needed to be cleansed. Not cleaned – there's no point doing too much of that when I know I will be getting the builders in – but cleansed. It has not been a happy place of late, had become something of a mausoleum as C struggled to let go of, well, anything really. But even before that: Joyce had never seemed to be a particularly happy woman either. They had their struggles, each in their turn, and here is not the place to wonder on the why of that. The house absorbed it, as places do. I don't want that reflected back. I don't want to move into an unhappy space, when I'm trying to create a warm and happy home. A widdershins burning of white sage, to release and clear the negativity, to clear the unhappy memories from the walls, took longer than I expected.

They say that you should immediately fill neutralised energy space with love…but I felt the place needed time in neutral. Calm time. No expectations time. I brought the smoke detector back indoors. And left.

We all need space to breathe.

I'll go back in a few days' time, with jasmine for positivity and moon energy.

In the meantime the solstice dawned…

By then I had decided that, given the form the prayer had taken, the place to read it and set it free would be on the beach where I had scattered his ashes. It was a windy day and the match-light would not hold long enough to catch the paper and so I simply shredded it and let it go into the wind and the waves. Littering you might call it, if you don't see the point of any of this.

I did think about not going. I did think about just staying in bed and waiting out the day. Forgetting about all of the shared rituals, the importance this day had had for us as a couple, I confess, was an option that crossed my mind.

But rituals are important.

When he died, I realised that I would need to close out those that we had shared, or repurpose them, find a way to make them remain relevant or simply honour them one last time and let them go. The solstice is not one I can let go.

We started to honour it for the most mundane of reasons, but over the years it took on its own significance so that we marked it still when the reason for doing so had lapsed…and over time I realised that it meant something to me personally, beyond what it meant to us. I think in taking my ritual to the place of his scattering, I may be seeking a way to retain its relevance to "us". Holding the banality of how it arose as a point, a marker of who we were, together…the way we did things…while at the same time, changing it, making it more my own. Or perhaps I am just acknowledging that however much has changed, and will change, and I want to change, and for all there is a new year starting…he is still here in me, and I am nowhere near ready to let that go.

In some ways it is surprising that I haven't taken the solstice prayer to the sea before. I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky. Masefield's words form a connection between me, my Dad, and Clive; I have the poem framed on my wall. It has echoed through my life from earliest childhood.

The lonely sea…and the sky…and the vagrant gypsy life. It's not about loneliness at all. It is about space and freedom. The wind song, the blown spume, the merry yarn.

On this day the wind song drowned out everything else. The waves might well have hushed in their shore-fall but I couldn't hear it. With my hair loose, I'm sure I was doing my best medusa impression snake-strands whipped up every which way.

I got lucky. The tide was low so I could walk out along the beach, meander among the rock pools, scare up the oyster catchers, so amazingly well camouflaged that I almost fell over them. I was rewarded for breaching my resistance to the weather, by having the weather retreat. I was rewarded with shining sands and a bright horizon.

If ever there was omen of a brighter year ahead, surely that is one that is cliché.

Perhaps I was just in the mood for signs…because I found another one, in the shape of

a smiling pebble. I’ve no idea whether it’s been man-made or it’s a happy coincidence of damage…but it made me smile, so I brought it home…because if nothing else, of all the millions of pebbles on the beach, I spotted this one.

Last year I wrote about the need to let what is falling to fall away. It turned out that I had little choice in the matter. It fell, regardless. My job was simply to deal with that.

I'd like to say: job done. But realistically like everything in life, it is still 'work in progress'.

Be that as it may, this year, this turning of the year, really does feel like a step away from the dark and back towards the light. It feels like foundations are lain, and building, creating, fashioning, can begin: a step towards bright horizons and finding smiles in unlikely places.

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