For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the shortest day, winter solstice, will arrive around 2am this Sunday, the final Sunday of Advent. Moreover, the moon is in its balsamic, or darkest phase. On Christmas Day (or the early hours of the 26th where I live that we call Stephen’s Day) the moon will be reborn. In fact, there will be a lunar eclipse. So we arrive this midwinter with a dark night sky and a daytime light that is scanty, especially if there is any cloud. The Sunday Weekly poem takes some of its tune from our natural world this winter solstice.
While there is lots of merriment abounding at this time of year, there is also a sense of melancholy. I think of holiday films like The Holly and the Ivy or,one of my all-time favourites, It’s a Wonderful Life. (It wasn’t an immediate box office hit. Hollywood thought it was a bit of a bummer for a holiday film. But it’s tale of suicide prevented turned out to be a slow-burn classic. ) Families come together and it can be stressful as unhealed issues resurface. The dark days of this season can trigger depression in some people. So some of the seasonal cheerfulness can feel both a bit forced and enforced as well. For those who have loved ones who have passed away at this time of year, that anniversary cannot but help colour the collective festivities. I had a college friend whose father had fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, which was marked by an especially bloody Christmas Day; he could never be cheery on that anniversary.
The Shortest Day
There are absences. There are the closed doors
that make surreal all this talk of salvation lore.
But, resolute, we face the openings in store,
even if we cannot quite be merry or
sing a halleluiah chorale. Our more frivolous
wishes might have resurrected that once
innocent wonder in lights and sparkling colour,
the delights in delicious smells – eggnog’s liqueur,
the shiver of nutmeg on the lip of its stirrup cup,
evergreen’s resin, ginger, cinnamon. Sip its over-sweet up
as the electric fairy light strandis slipped over
and wound around the live tree’s indoor bower.
It’s a day dawning late after a no moon night.
It’s a day that rapidly resigns its pale light.
May it be a portal to our safer future, bright
and warm as the Yule log’s blaze. We dig down deep
into the Santa stocking’s far toe, the gift it keeps –
chocolate as dark as midwinter’s day and just as semi-sweet.
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights