Tag Archives: Solstice

Her Shadow in Wings

The sun, glaring down from a faded sky,
Finds me perched in a high place,
Hammer,
Nails,
Shingles,
Hot asphalt burning my knees,
As I kneel,
An unwitting pilgrim,
At the heel of a solar god.

Relief, unexpected and fleeting,
As shade passes over me,
Accompanied by a cool breeze,
My gaze drawn upward,
To a raven wheeling against the Sun,
The poetic impulse takes me,
And I am awash in a sudden flood of verse,
Until my balance wavers,
Dangerously…,

And the moment passes,
Eyes down and the sun on my back,
I return to the task at hand,
But a single phrase lingers still,
“Her shadow in wings.”

 

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Filed under Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Journey

Twelve Nights – A Poem for Yule

For twelve nights long we’ve rung the bell.
For more years now than men may tell.

Before Saint Nick was on the scene.
Before the baby Nazarene.

We dressed the hearth in green and red.
We kept the children long from bed.

And told the tales the wise men know.
And feasted through the deepening snow.

To wake the Sun from her long sleep.
To mark the oaths we’ve sworn to keep.

Now Yule from us is nearly gone.
Now starts the newborn year in song.

May our midwinter celebrations bring us closer to hearth and home and to those we love from across the miles.

Blessings to you all.

Winter Solstice

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Mythology, Poetry, Religion, Traditions

…and the rent is due.

The Dingle Coast

I would bring him bundles of rushes from the waters edge.
Carry them by hand to the high place, stony Barrule, overlooking the sea.
For Midsummer Eve has come and Manannán awaits his payment.

Only, I am far from those shores.
Arid winds bend prairie grass like waves on an earthen sea,
I am stranded here, landlocked — and the rent is due.

Cliffs at Loop Head

Standing on the very brink of thundering wave and stone,
I have opened my arms, buoyed by winds sweeping from far Emain Ablach.
Lifted a moment, from the rocky cliff, like the Heron King taking flight.

I cling to memories of a rugged coast,
As I choke on the fumes of engines going nowhere.
I am stranded here, landlocked — and the rent is due.

The Tides of Kilkee

As the rising tide sends plumes of white foam into the air,
The sea god’s wife approaches, her soothing kiss, lingering upon my cheek.
They call her Fand, which means “teardrop”, and she tastes like the sea.

We carry the ocean, like a memory, flowing within us.
Weeping, we give it back again, carried home on the Summer breeze.
I am stranded here, landlocked — and the rent is due.

Nothing makes me yearn for the coasts and mountains of Ireland, quite so much as Summer in Texas.  Although this weeks solstice marks the longest day of the year, we know all too well that the hottest days are yet to come.

There has been a tradition on the Isle of Man (that small Celtic nation nestled almost exactly between Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) that each year, on Midsummer Eve, the Manx would pay their rent (a token sacrifice of rushes or sweet grass) to Manannán mac Lir, the ancient Celtic god of the seas, to whom the island belongs.  I am told that this tradition survived well into the 19th century, if it is not still practiced by a few today.

I hope, one day soon, to make that pilgrimage myself.  I have languished for too long, allowing material limitations and self-imposed obligations to strand me, landlocked, in this spiritually parched domain.  I need only a strong current, a sturdy sail, and the blessings of the ocean god.

Let the tides take me where they will.

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Filed under Holidays, Ireland, Mythology, Photography, Poetry, Spiritual Journey, The Gods, Traditions

Born in Darkness

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…,

—from The Raven by Edger Allen Poe

We have a strange, and if I may say, somewhat backward, relationship with darkness.  We are raised, almost from birth, to be terrified of the night and frightened by shadows which lurk beyond our sight.  We populate the dark with our fears and anxieties, making of it a home for every predator, villain and devilry that our overwrought imaginations may contrive.  We strive to light our homes, our yards and streets, and when we think there may not be enough light to reach every dark corner, we bolt high powered halogen security lights onto every pole and surface we can find.  We flood the night with so much glare that the stars themselves are hidden from our sight.

We excuse this behavior by telling ourselves that we act out of self preservation.  We imagine that our ancestors gathered close around some meager blaze as they sheltered in their caves by night.  Perhaps, we tell ourselves, that those distant ancients could hear wolves sniffing about in the darkness, just outside the reach of the light, and knew that they were safe and secure within its protective glow.

In our apprehension, we have sought to extend that glow further and further, to cast light into every shadow and in so doing, to rob the night of its mystery.

Are we any safer?

And even if the answer to that question is yes, was it worth turning the night into a pallid likeness of daytime to achieve that supposed security.

I step out of my home and into the night only to find myself illuminated from almost every direction.  Looking into the drab sky which hangs above me, punctuated by a scarce smattering of pinprick lights, I find that I don’t buy into the original argument.

Men…, caves…, fire…, safety.   It all sounds very plausible until you remember that in those ancient sites where early peoples left cave art behind, those paintings NEVER appear near the entrances to the caves where the people sheltered and light was plentiful.  Instead, those sacred images were produced in the deepest, darkest most inaccessible parts of the cave.  Although we cannot know precisely what spirits may have motivated our earliest ancestors, it seems clear enough that they understood something about the darkness that we, as a culture, appear to have forgotten.

While darkness may sometimes hide danger, it is home to the most sacred of mysteries: the birth of light and life and power.

We have become so fixated upon our own journey toward some imagined darkness that we forget that we were birthed, each of us, from darkness itself.  Literally speaking, the safest, most comforting and secure time of our lives was spent in the womb.  The mystery of life begins in darkness, and though we may live out our lives in the light of the sun, it is to the comforting darkness of our beds that we return when the day is done.

In these days leading up to the Winter Solstice, the days grow shorter and shorter while the darkness of night extends to the fullest reach it shall know in the year ahead.  Our ancestors understood that the living year is born, as are we all, from a place of darkness.  They welcomed the darkness of creation, and the eventual rebirth of the sun, with feasts and gifts and sacrifice that have been passed down to us from a time beyond recorded history.

However you choose to celebrate in the coming days, I welcome you to join me in the deepest part of the longest night of the year.  Step out of the “safe” light of the fire for a few moments and into the darkness beyond.  Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the night around you.  Feel the breath of mystery upon your cheek.

And when you are ready…,

Open your eyes and peer deep into that darkness,

Not fearing, but wondering;

Not doubting, but dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before!

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey