Pretty sure I learned about the winter solstice from a textbook—in sixth grade, maybe. Dimly I can conjure up the rudimentary, line-drawing illustration that accompanied the text. I’m betting “solstice” had been on that week’s spelling test, too. Sound familiar?
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Mr. Phelps, our natty, bowtied, horn-rimmed glasses science teacher, had exclaimed: “Think about it, boys and girls,” his voice rising in excitement.* “Our shared ancestors knew about the winter solstice because they noticed it! They noted, they studied, they watched the world around them, the seasons, the weather, the night sky. They figured out a way to keep track of what they’d observed. Think about it!”
Here’s what most moves me about this simple, elegant fact about those ancient souls: That we’ll never know who first figured out this “turning year” phenomena. But I’m guessing the cumulative observations leading to our understanding were collaborative, communal; I’m guessing women and children participated in that ancient data collection.
And, today, right now, December 21, 2017, it brings me to tears to be reminded that our greedy, selfish, warring species can also be curious. Such a simple yet wondrous quality of being human. Yes.
A Winter Blessing
By Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker
In the shadowed quiet of winter’s light
earth speaks softly
of her longing.
Because the wild places are in tears.
Come, she cries to us.
Kneel down here
on the frosty grass,
and feel the prayer buried in the ground.
Bend your ear to my heart
and listen hard.
Love this world, she whispers.
Distill peace from the snow
and water the cities
Weave wonder from the forest
and clothe grief
Rest in the rhythm of the turning year,
Trace the bending arc
Rounding the curve toward justice.
And vow anew to do no harm.
The winter trees stand watch
haloed in the last gleams of the slanting sun.
Glory sings here.
Heaven echoes the call:
Repeat the sounding joy.
Make your life an answer:
*For all his bowtie primness, Mr. Phelps was, on occasion, passionate. His marveling that the Russians had launched Sputnik was both unexpectedly adorable and illustrative; that my Cold War-era teacher had been so gaga about this historic event taught me something fundamental about science.