A year ago today I was staying with friends who had taken me in when temperatures in Boone had dropped to overnight lows of 6°F, too cold for the dogs and I to stay warm – or even tepid – in Roadcinante at the run-down old RV campground where we’d been staying. I was a little over two weeks away from my departure. It was ever so wonderful to be in a home with people I adored.
Everything then was weighted with import for me. Each day that brought me closer to my leave-taking seemed sweeter and more poignant. When the Winter Solstice rolled around on the calendar, we decided to have a Solstice Party, since I had been wanting to somehow mark the day of least light in preparation for my sojourn to go chase it. The day, while just another on the calendar, seemed pivotal, momentous.
Food was procured, people invited, libations stocked. The tree had been decorated, lights aglow. Everything and everyone gleamed. The crowd swelled. So did the soundtrack of laughter and wild chatter and the background of music as the wine was poured, the beer was swigged.
Then we set about making this new champagne cocktail we’d learned of, where you take good dry white champagne and add a teaspoon of syrupy pomegranate balsamic vinegar and drop about 4 plump pomegranate seeds in the bottom. Fantastic, and, hey, presto! In no time, many of us were…um, what is that term I am looking for…oh, yeah! Shit-faced!
At some point my friend whose house I was staying in asked, “Do you want to do a ritual or something?” and I looked around at the gathered crowd, just looked at them, you know the way you do sometimes when it seems you are watching a lovely movie of lovely people, and everyone was having fun, their faces all shiny and happy. I tried to think of what I might do or say, but around champagne cocktail #2 the idea of planning had gotten a little fuzzy and whatnot.
“Nope,” I said, peering through the director’s frame I made with my thumbs and forefingers, taking a mental picture to keep. “I’m good.”
Two days later I got the “Chasing Light” tattoo on the inside of my left wrist, which satisfied my need to mark the journey. (I have this wild idea that when Chasing Light is a book, a temporary tattoo with this design could be included in each copy. What say you? Would you walk around for a couple of days with a spiral-blazing sun stuck to a body part?)
Of course, while I was busy thinking how to mark the journey, it was already marking me. Readying me for my solo flight and the months ahead.
Now, here it is a year later and I am heavy into the throes of telling the story of how I chased light and found myself again in the process, not even knowing when I set out how badly I had misplaced myself, coming out from under some self-imposed exile, my solitude as penance for all my perceived failures, and against this the light rising more and more each day, and it hasn’t stopped yet. I count that as blessing.
For fun, I’ve joined an international Twitter reading group, (brainchild of author Robert MacFarlane and poet Julia Mary Bird) reading Susan Cooper’s classic young person’s book, The Dark Is Rising, the second in her five-book series. The story begins on Midwinter’s Eve, as did the group read yesterday. Today I read chapter two for Midwinter’s Day. On this shortest day of the year, the day of the most dark, a young boy’s world changes in terrifying ways. He finds he no longer recognizes his home. He finds himself in a strange and unfamiliar land. He finds the dark is rising. He finds he is on a journey that will carry him to places unknown that are fraught with danger. I have not read this book before, so I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I trust that in the end Light is going to win.
In fact, I trust that for us, too, for all of us. Tonight is dark, tomorrow a little less so.