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Solstice: Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

22 Dec

It’s winter solstice today here in the Northern hemisphere (or, if you’re an ancient Roman, the birthday of the unconquered sun!). It’s the time of year to spend many hours inside, doing home-y things. Like baking cookies to mail to your friends and give to your neighbors and then eating them all instead. And reading Adrienne Rich poems about winter:

Homage to Winter 
by Adrienne Rich

You: a woman too old
for passive contemplation
caught staring out a window
at bird-of-paradise spikes
jewelled with rain, across an alley
It’s winter in this land
of roses, roses sometimes
the fog lies thicker around you than your past
sometimes the Pacific radiance
scours the air to lapis
In this new world you feel
backward along the hem of your whole life
questioning every breadth
Nights you can watch the moon shed skin after skin
over and over, alway a shape
of imbalance except
at birth and in the full
You, still trying to learn
how to live, what must be done
thought in death you will be complete
whatever you do
But death is not the answer.

On these flat green leaves
light skates like a golden blade
high in the dull-green pine
sit two mushroom-colored doves
afterglow overflows
across the bungalow roof
between the signs for the three-way stop
over everything that is:
the cotton pants stirring on the line, the
empty Coke can by the fence
onto the still unflowering
mysterious acacia
and a sudden chill takes the air

Backward you dream to a porch
you stood on a year ago
snow flying quick as thought
sticking to your shoulder gone
Blue shadows, ridged and fading
on a snow-swept road
the shortest day of the year
Backward you dream to glare ice
and ice-wet pussywillows
to Riverside Drive, the wind
cut loose from Hudson’s Bay
driving tatters into your face
And back you come at last to that room
without a view, where webs of frost
blinded the panes at noon
where already you had begun
to make the visible world your conscience
asking things: What can you tell me?
what am I doing? what must I do?

May your days continue to lengthen, dear readers. And have a good solstice – those cookies are in the mail, I promise. *covers mouth*

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