Solstice Gifts

“…I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed

there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

–Henry David Thoreau

Close to dusk, I stop to watch at least sixty turkeys, sipping and grazing in the sun-slanted, evergreen woods. The flock is a shifting mosaic of iridescent browns, greens, and purples against the still, white ground. As they head uphill to my right, I pick out last year’s babies.

I walk into the Cheshire house on Solstice Eve, picking my way over the treacherous ice. The door opens and ashes, alight with glittering red-gold coals, are scattered out onto my path. Glowing lights to mark my way and keep me safe. Brilliance in the dark. I am reminded of bioluminescent phytoplankton shimmering in a black sea. I say to the being who was doing the scattering: A solstice miracle. “Yes,” the being answers.

On Solstice morning my Up-the-River neighbor Betty writes of the “marbleized end papers of pink and blue in the eastern sky, at 7:06.” She tells of a raven she saw yesterday wandering the field in back of her house. When Betty is outside and sees a raven fly over she calls out a greeting. As it flies over my house, on its way further down the valley, I do the same. In this way, the raven links us.

In our family, magic visits on solstice eve. I sleep in Cheshire in order to be present for gift opening. Tomorrow the day will be longer, and each day after, longer still. I will mark the sun’s journey north along the western slope behind my house. The crows wake me well before dawn. I can hear the children rustling around in the room next door, opening their stockings.

5 year old Itzel heard “big” footsteps in the night. Santa Claus is proclaimed to be bear.

8 year old Maple sends me her painting of Night giving birth to the Sun, “after she has rocked her, all night long.”

Her mother Dena sends me a picture of their solstice seed mandala, assembled by candlelight.

When we walk out of the house on this bright morning, my daughter notices that the hemlocks have opened their tiny cones and released their seeds. Hemlock seeds by the thousands pepper the frozen ground. It takes our breath away that this would have happened on winter’s brow. Small signals of hope in a hard time, a strewn offering to the future from our beloved, dying hemlock giants.

In nearby Cummington Stacey shows me a Cecropia moth chrysalis which hangs folded into a leaf on a young maple in her yard. It is waiting for spring. I imagine the giant Saturnid emerging from this modest brown package, unfolding its glorious wings, drying them in the warm spring sun. All the other leaves on the tree have long since fallen. The caterpillar, in its wisdom, has glued her own winter home to the branch.