Tonight, at the exact moment of the Winter Solstice, I am standing out in my front yard, head craned back, staring at the sky…
I’m looking for magic.
The thing about the solstice is that it comes at the exact same moment for all of us — the instant when the sun crests over Stonehenge and begins the shortest day of the year.
Which means that the day after this one will be a little longer.
And the next day will be a little longer still.
It means that winter just can’t last, and that thought feels pretty magical to me.
Except that tonight, out in the rain-laden midnight, I can’t see any magic. I have my camera with me, looking for light. But my sky is moonless, and starless. All I can see is the dull orange haze of the streetlights reflected back from the bottom of rainclouds.
So I put the camera away for awhile, and I go walking instead.
I take a deep lungful of dark air, and I think about how ordinary this magical moment seems … and suddenly it occurs to me that, in a way, this particular solstice is very much like the Christian Advent.
Because it’s quite possible, isn’t it, that the sun rises half a world away and we don’t see?
That the stars spark behind the rain and we don’t know?
That the very person who spells our salvation could walk into the world, and still … there might be a brief span of time in which we just don’t know it yet??
Instead, there’s just ordinary.
I walk longer, in the black, and I try to take pictures of whatever ordinary beauty I see: the crisscrossed shadows of tree limbs on the road. The faint wet gleam on the sidewalks. And after awhile, I find myself praying. Because I’ll tell you: I am no preacher. And yet if I had to have a little good news to carry, it would be the gospel of ordinary things:
The flash of sun on a dragonfly’s wing.
The slow lap of liquid at the river’s edge.
The early-morning fog bedding down soft and white into hills and hollows.
And oh, God, I am going to keep preaching this ordinary gospel — even if nobody really listens — in hopes that my tiny good news might be pointing the way to some larger Gospel … the kind that’s much too big to fold up into the cramped container of language.
The kind about how the divine might be contained — and also not contained — in human skin.
Which is what all my words are about, anyway.
I tilt my head.
I take a breath.
I peer into the dark and take a picture:
Happy Winter Solstice, friends. Though you can’t see for all the shadows, today marks the beginning of the end of the dark.
Let’s celebrate it together. ❤