I just got back from a big Solstice bonfire in a rural field. There were goats I could barely see bleeting in the background, and I watched as a little girl toasted her first marshmallow over the fire and laughed with unbridled joy.
Into the fire went our wishes and hopes for 2010 or, conversely, the quality, activity or thought we wished to leave permanently behind. Scrawled on paper, the unwanted characteristics caught fire — edges first, and then entire sheets, until they were flaming, at times floating, pieces of ephemera.
The wind shifted, the fire smoked. It lit up the faces of people I had met earlier in the warm house, over Jambalaya and a fantastic, wintery Squash and Mushroom Soup. There had been lots of great talk and dancing, people of all ages. One woman continued to burn personal papers from a long-term task, just ended today. She methodically lifted envelopes out of a shopping bag and into the fire. I saw tax returns, the Blue Cross logo — highly earthly reminders of the present — as she continued her own ritual, her own moving on, just as the Ancients had done when they gathered to lurch (sometimes frightened) from past to future, to warm themselves together in Winter and greet the recurring miracle of returning light.
Above us, the Pleiades shifted in their faint group. People sought out the Big Dipper, which was especially low on the horizon. A perfect crescent moon, angled like a cradle as if on a stage set, rose and hung orange in the inky sky. When we reluctantly left, our host invited us back to see the baby goats that would arrive on this same spot in the spring.
Photo: Jon Sullivan, pdphoto.org