Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Soul, Stitched

It is a good thing that I do not have the job of Helios, whose task it was to cart the sun across the sky. Because I was supposed to write this on the Solstice.

And so cosmologically I would still be hitching up the horses, cursing because I mislaid this bit or that bridle, and y'all would still be in the dark and waiting for the shortest day of the year (getting shorter every second) to be over.

So Merry Christmas, everyone.


Despite dire predictions of Earth's demise based on misreadings of Mayan calendars, December 21 did something fairly unusual for the first day of winter in the Northwest: It was clear, bright, and sunny.

Here's proof, toward the end of the day looking east toward the Cascades. (Sorry about all the wires. I didn't put them there. It's how we do electricity in the U.S. of A.)

More sunshine arrived in the form of a box of citrus fruits sent by our friend S., straight from the Sunshine State of Florida.

You don't need me to tell you all about the symbolism of light and dark and all the northern-hemisphere cultural traditions surrounding Solstice--there is probably more information on the Internet, both true and false, about its history as well as its intertwining with Christmas than you could ever read about even on the longest day of the year. Probably nearly as much information as there are video clips about cats.

(This makes me think of an ambitious essay I wrote when I was in middle-school English entitled something like "Light as a Symbol in Shakespeare." A topic that I apparently thought I'd covered completely and tied up neatly with a bow in just three handwritten pages. I suppose I tackled "Doves as a Symbol in Christianity" next.)

But the whole rebirth-perseverance-light-amid-darkness aspect of the Solstice can certainly make one think. By "one" of course I mean "me" as well as Lots of Other People. I think about how this beautiful Christmas season, which was once nothing but unconditional joy for me, is now threaded with sadness and loss (as it would be for all but the very young, and even that feels specious, in the wake of the massacre of innocents in Sandy Hook just a week ago). And how even more important it becomes to look for the light, the sparks of hope, now and in every season, every day.

Solstice this year, in the space of two hours spent with friends, felt like life compressed; good food, laughter, and sharing, pierced by a friend's announcement of very bad news as well as some very good news. Sometime during the day is when the play on words "soul, stitched" came into my head.

from Coffetypes
The phrase wouldn't leave me, all day, and I thought, oh, great.This stupid pun on "Solstice" is going to be stuck in my head, and it's going to insert itself into the title of this theme, and then it's going to work like flypaper, and be stuck all over with little tied-up fly-sized parcels of pseudo-insightful wisdom about the soul and stitches, and it will be as if it all naturally evolved and not at all as if I went out and forcibly captured and killed the flies to purposely stick them onto the flypaper.

But actually it doesn't feel tidy, smug, and wise at all. It did make me think about how stitches hurt, but also help heal an injury; how you can be in stitches of laughter, a commingling of joy and pain; how stitches hold things together even as they pierce the very fabric they're binding. My soul, which I usually avoid thinking about, seems to feel its stitches more and more.

And just like my compact, well-intentioned, but naive Shakespearean essay, these scraps are all I've got: "The Symbolism of Light and Dark, Pain and Renewal in the Human Experience," All in One Middle-School Paper!

In less eye-rolling moments, I think, well, maybe the play on words is more like a magnet than flypaper. Back to middle school again, this time to science class, where we put magnets under paper and then sprinkled iron filings on the paper and watched as the little black specks arranged themselves in patterns around the magnet. Stick the words down, and the ideas arrange themselves. Uh-oh, here comes my sophomore-college-year English professor with his fine-point Sharpie; he's going to write "Your paragraphs are like shopping bags full of metaphors" on my paper again.

Well, best wishes for lots of light in the year ahead. Perhaps the egg I cracked open on Friday while baking cookies is a good omen for that--it was a double-yolker, the first I've ever found.

Like so many so-called omens, the double-yolked egg is an omelette of superstitions: It signifies good luck! No, bad luck! No, impending marriage or the birth of twins, either one being good or bad luck depending on your point of view! No, it means a death in the family! No way, it means a financial windfall!
Ah, duality--gotta love/hate it. I say the double yolk on a rare sunny Solstice day in Seattle means good luck.