Saturnalia

rose hips2

It’s dark and cold here on the edge of the Pacific coast, the light almost completely gone, though after today, we can expect it to return again, slowly, slowly. Our house is warmed by a wood fire and there’s an extra quilt on the bed for the long night. This afternoon, I noticed the little moments of colour—hips from the dog rose around my second storey window, the first tiny blooms of winter jasmine. When I went to feed the birds this morning, the chickadees were so eager (and hungry!) that one paused on my wrist as I tipped seed into their feeder. The ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia this time of year, from December 17 – 23, feasting, singing, lighting fires, and gifting each other with candles to signify the return of the light. Are we any different?

Solstice

We laugh to think the Romans lit great fires in December
to persuade the sun to come back. To persuade the sun!

— Elizabeth Arnold

A late note, an hour after the Solstice: John called upstairs to say there was a small bird, a golden-crowned kinglet, fluttering at the window. Was it trying to get in the house? Was it confused? Who could say. I was reading upstairs and then I turned out my light. About ten minutes later, I heard fluttering at the curtained window by my bed. Looking out, I was eye to eye with the kinglet. Small bright eyes, black lines on either side of its splendid golden crown. Was it the spirit of one we’ve loved and lost, asking us to remember? A tiny life in the dark night, a tiny king in a wild country, on the darkest night of the year.

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