Recognizing those who have come before us
Come Friday at 7:11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, the Sun at “high noon” appears to be at its lowest point on the horizon for those of us living north of the Equator. It will be the Winter Solstice.
For ancient northern cultures, which unlike us smug moderns did not think that food came from a grocery store or heat from a furnace, the Solstice was an ominous annual occurrence. So they built great bonfires and held sacred ceremonies in hope that the Sun, the life-giver, would swing back north
I wholly respect such age-old traditions. They are not quaint or simple-minded notions to be waved aside dismissively as being ignorant; their practitioners were not smug and self-satisfied, like we are, lured into a false sense of security about tomorrow and the next meal. We do think no further than food comes from the grocery store, light from the flick of a switch, or heat by dialing a thermostat to the furnace. We are the ignorant ones, who take nature and its resources for granted.
That is why, each Winter Solstice, I build my own little bonfire, to remember Northern Peoples Past who were not arrogant enough to take life’s gifts for granted. This Friday it will be in Colorado, where I will share the holidays with a son and his family. Most years it glows and flickers in my own little creek bottom fire-pit at home.
In any case, consider building your own Winter Solstice bonfire Friday evening. Think about all the modern comforts and securities we take for granted, and think about how, until the modern era, our ancestors lived in near daily, life-threatening peril.
As you sit by your own bonfire, watch the sparks rise to the heavens. As they flare and then quickly fade, think about them as metaphors for our own lives. Really, we flare up and fade out rather quickly. Treasure your bonfire, treasure the moment. Treasure the season. Happy holidays.