The Magical Light

be the light

Tomorrow will be the shortest day in our northern hemisphere – the winter solstice. It will also be the day when shortly after sunset, if we do not have heavy cloud cover, we should see the Grand Jupiter Saturn Conjunction. Although I have to say that cloud cover can be a fairly constant feature of an Irish December. So we shall see. On Christmas Eve, it is forecast to be dry and clear, so maybe we will glimpse the Bethlehem Star on that night.

Counterintuitively, I tend to wake early, before dawn in the winter months. (And lie abed in summer; go figure!) And when I do wake early, I write in the darkness, though I draw open the curtains to see the slow curling of twilight dissolve into a pinking sunrise around 9am.

I woke early this morning and did not turn over to drowse on. I took out my pen and notebook after reading a quotation of Audre Lorde in a Brain Pickings blog post. It spurred a fairly formal effort, though I know of no name for it – a regular rhyme scheme with a capping couplet. Perhaps it is a longtail sonnet?! It is what it is, I guess. Here is the quotation:

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realised.

Audre Lorde

She goes on to speak of poetry, but I stopped there and decided to take up writing a poem.

We Pursue Our Magic

We pursue our magic and make it so -
shake, rattle the kaleidoscopic light-
marvelling at patterns and the colours.
Sometimes incantations make the world glow
on days of this perpetual twilight,
which plunge us, forcing us to discover
the content of our character on show
(only to our most private self). Less bright,
perhaps, than we might like. Even dimmer
than this midnight of the heart and soul.

Delicate beauty may come to light,
nuanced, that peripherally hovers,
that uncovers truth by way of shadow,
overcoming the blinded, dazzled bright
of favoured, mythic, eternal summer.
We pursue our magic by our own light.
And make it so with all the words we write.
 
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved. 

This will be a holiday season like none we have known in our lifetime. Collectively, we are pausing in the dark of the year. Stay well, my friends. It may be a lonely time for many, but pause. Read some poetry. Poetry is our magical connection.

There may be another poem on Tuesday. Or, depending on how my baking and other preparations are going, I may post closer to Christmas.

Stay well. Stay connected. Good Yule. The light is returning.

The Shortest Day

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

Featured image Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

A Pool of Light

This Sunday is the second week of Advent. We are two weeks away from winter solstice, the darkest part of the year in the Northern hemisphere. The Sunday Weekly poem is definitely conditioned partly by the weather. Even with the moon approaching full this week, the weather has been stormy and cloudy. The nights only reveal the odd glimmer of moonlight. The skies are low and grey and twilight seems to draw in earlier than what the almanac’s say is technically sunset. Despite the bugs going around, we humans seem to want to huddle together. It was a far more social week than most for me, with us out for two very, very late nights into the wee hours, singing in a pub ceilidh. The night outside was stormy and foul, but inside we were all snug, singing our hearts out, bantering, laughing, making music with each other, applauding each other, appreciating every contribution to the night’s entertainment.

McHugh’s Pub is tiny even by Irish standards. It has a narrow bar for regulars and a larger, but not large l-shaped room where we crammed in with guitars, bazooki, mandolins and djembe drum. Twice a year, three travelling troubadours from Dublin pitch up in Glenfarne and lead this old-style session. Pat Trimble amiably draws people out to contribute a song or recite a poem. In between, Pat, Terry, and Vince play (along with my husband Tony) any number of tunes from any amount of styles – folk, rock, Irish trad, country, with a few rousing sing-alongs thrown in- throughout the evening. Yes, there is drink, but the high spirits are really music inspired. The publican’s daughter brings out her concertina and gives us a few tunes inbetween helping at the bar and getting the midnight supper sorted. It’s that kind of hospitable place.

McHughs Pub Glenfarne
Ben McHugh’s Pub, Glenfarne, Co. Leitrim
A Pool of Light

A splash in this December night, the motley
assembly of voices raised in chorus,
virtual strangers picking out harmonies,
humming along when words fail, beating
time to the tunes , clapping, snugged up
in this small country pub, turf fire warming
the crowd of bodies at the bar and we are

singing, singing, carried along by
melody, cameraderie, joy's memory.
Hope sounds like our rowdy laughter,
applause, the respectful murmur of 'good man' ,
the parting glass wishing all a 'Good night!'
as Ben holds open the door, formally shaking our hands
as we leave that pool of light and walk out
into winter's dark night.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured photo Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

Solstice Celebrations

Today is the 102nd anniversary of my mother’s birth. My father’s anniversary was six months ago shortly before the winter solstice. My parents were the born almost exactly opposite one another, within a day of the summer and winter solstices. My mother’s father was born on the 20th of June and I have a nephew who also falls witin the orb of winter solstice. And, as an aside, my husband was born within the hour of the vernal equinox. These earth movements around the sun are strongly connected with family celebrations for me. It is not just a solar return to their birthday. It is the sun stationing at a point where season’s turn. It not just midsummer festivities because school is out for the summer and Yuletide jollies. So my poetry practice inevitably turned to memories of my parents this morning, in particular my mother.

Father Mother Sun

Child of day of longest night
Child of night of longest light

I am their beloved child.
I feel a wild thrill,
the long and short
of their extremity
I see the extravagent midsummer green
I see the bare bark of bleak midwinter's scene

There were contrasts:
her blonde head
the sun at full light
meeting
his dark-haired one
kissing each other into kin
creating a world that held
in each other
a balance

I am a child that is from
a child of day of longest night
a child of night of longest light


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
honeymoon photo
It seems fitting to share a picture of my parents on their honeymoon just past the full Honey Moon. They both look like they have just won the Lotto.

Winter Solstice

winter solstice moon

Winter Solstice arrived at bedtime last night. But at suppertime I moved the Sunwheel wreath to the dining table and lit the central candle. We had poppy seed cake for dessert, a favourite of my guests, but also to mark the 102nd birthday of my Dad, long though he has lived with the ancestors. Our celebrations are officially started.

I am writing the Poetry Daily before the first glimmerings of daylight. Solstices are liminal times and it felt right to go to my doorway first thing (well, after feeding the cats and brewing my cup of tea) and welcome Winter. ‘Tis the season to be cordial, after all. We have a very plump, almost full moon this year for winter solstice, too!

Winter Solstice

I woke. Bid winter welcome
in the darkness
before the returning
of the day's light.

Venus was large and bright
breaching the dark,
turning sky indigo
with Her own light.

I stood in the doorway
in the starry
almost day. Even at the
darkest times, look!
The full moon and Venus
offer us light.

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith