Solstice has a new meaning for me now that dusk comes at 3:15pm! It was a different story in Florida. Winter meant it was finally cool enough to walk with out breaking a sweat, and that you could have your doors open and not run the A/C.
The nights are long now in Sweden. I am looking forward to the return of the sun, and I know little by little the light it is returning. I am not used to these cycles of seasonal change yet. The darkness crept up so quickly. The visible turning of the wheel of the year here is helping me understand the mythology of Yule/Jul/Christmas in a new way. When the world around you dies so concretely- the green gives way to brown- and the days grow long and dark, you really do have a living metaphor for the cycle of death and the need to nourish the light within in dark times.
The darkness gives a greater appreciation of the light, the death in winter a deeper gratitude for the colors off spring. I have been spoiled living in Florida, where there is green and color all year long. It is no wonder, Florida, named for "flowers" was reported to be the home of the fountain of youth for Ponce de Leon and the Spanaird explorers. Maybe this eternal green is why the American retirees/ elders still are drawn to Florida in their old age. The 'endless summer' feeling can betray one into thinking death does not ever come.
But everything in nature cycles, and nothing is ever lost- there is always another season. Even past the deepest darkness that looks like it will destroy everything.
Here is a lovely little fairy tale that came to me from an email group, author unknown, sorry.
The Yule Faeries
A Winter Solstice Story
A group of little Faeries huddled in their home deep under the roots of against oak tree. They were safe and snug in their tiny underground cave lined with dandelion fluff, bird feathers, and dried moss.Outside, the wind blew cold and the snow fell softly down to cover the ground. I saw the Sun King today, the faerie named Rose said as she pulled her mossy cloak tighter about her. He looked so old and tired as he walked off through the forest. What is wrong with him?
"The great oak said he is dying" answered Daffodil. "Dying? Oh, what will we do now?" Little Meadow Grass started to cry, 'If the Sun King dies, our little plant friends will not grow. The Birds will not come and sing again. Everything will be winter for ever!" Lilac, Dandelion and Elder Blossom tried to comfort their friend, but they were all very sad. As they huddled together, there was a knock on the tiny door."Open up, Faeries," called out a loud voice. "Why are you hiding instead of joining us in our Solstice celebration?" Rose opened the door and the little gnome Brown Knobby pushed inside, shaking the glistening snowflakes off his brown coat and hat. 'We are too sad to celebrate,' Daffodil said wiping her eyes, "The Sun King is dying, haven't you heard?"
"Yes I had heard." Brown Knobby's round dark eyes sparkled with laughter.³Now hurry, or we¹ll be late for the celebration!" "How can you be happy and laughing?!" Elder Blossom stamped her little foot and frowned at the gnome. "If the Sun King IS dying, it will be winter always. We will never see the Sun again!
"Oh my little child-Faeries!" Brown Knobby grabbed Dandelion by the hand and pulled her to her feet. "There is a secret to the Winter Solstice. Don't you want to know what it is?" The Faeries looked at him in surprise. "Secret?" they all said. "What secret? We are only new little Faeries. We've never been to a Solstice celebration before." "Come and see. Come and see. Get your capes and come with me." Brown Knobby danced and jigged around the room. "Hurry, Hurry, don't be slow! To the Sacred Oak Grove through the snow!" He danced out of the door and disappeared.
"What did that gnome mean?" Rose asked as she gathered up her cloak of dried rose petals held together with cobwebs and lined with goose down."I don't know, but the Lady lives in the Sacred Grove." Meadow Grass pulled on her hat."Perhaps if we go to see the Goddess, She can explain what Brown Knobby was talking about".
The Faeries left their snug little home and trudged off through the snow toward the sacred oak grove. The forest was dark with only the light of the Moon shining down through the thick fir branches and bare limbs of maple and hawthorn. It was very difficult for them to get through the snow because they were very, very small.
As they waded through the wet snow and shivered in the cold wind, they met a fox. "Where are you going, Faeries?" the fox asked. "To the sacred grove," they answered, they were cold and shivering."Climb on my back and I will take you there swiftly." The fox knelt down so the Faeries could climb up. Then he raced off through the dark.
"Listen!" Lilac said as they neared the Grove of Sacred trees. "Someone is singing happy songs. A LOT of someones." The beautiful music carried over the cold, still, moon lit air. It was the most beautiful music the Faeries had ever heard. The fox carried the Faeries right to the edge of the stone altar in the center of the grove, then knelt down. "Look!" said Elder Blossom as they slid to the snow covered ground. "There is the Maiden and the Mother and the OLD Wise Crone, and many other Little People." "They are all smiling and happy," said Lilac as she looked around at all the creatures. "All the animals are here too," whispered Dandelion. "Why are they all looking at the Mother?" The Faeries moved closer to the three Ladies seated on the altar stone. The Mother held a bundle close in Her arms, smiling down at it. The Maiden reached down and took the Faeries gently in her Hands. She held them close to the Mother so they could see what She held. "A Baby!" the Faeries cried. " A new little Baby! Look how he glows!" "He is the newborn Sun King," said the Maiden smiling. "But Brown Knobby and the old oak tree said the Sun King was dying," the Faeries answered her. "How can this little baby be the Sun King?" "That is the great secret of the Winter Solstice." The Old Wise One touched the baby's cheek with her wrinkled hand. "Every year the Sun King must come to the sacred grove during the darkest days of winter where he dies. I take his spirit to the Mother who gives him new life again. This is the way for all creatures, not just the Sun King.""You mean everything lives and dies and lives again?" the Faeries looked down in wonder at the baby Sun King, nestled in the arms of the Mother. "Yes, Little Ones," answered the Old Wise Crone. "There is never an end to life. This is the great mystical secret of the Winter Solstice." The Faeries laughed because they were so happy."I think the little Sun King should have gifts," said Rose. "I will show him where the wild roses bloom in the early summer." "And, I will teach him to call the birds and listen to the songs of the wind," exclaimed Dandelion. "When he is older and stronger, " said the Mother, "then the flowers will bloom at his touch, the birds will return to sing their songs, and the air will be warm from his breath, and winter will be gone for a time. Then the Sun King will run and play with you in the forest."
The little Faeries sang to the Baby Sun King, songs of the coming spring, the sweet smelling flowers, the bumbling bees, and all the secrets of the forest. And all the creatures within the sacred grove sang with them. Then the fox took them back to their snug home under the roots of the giant oak tree where they dreamed wonderful dreams, waiting for the warmth of spring and the fun they would have with the little Sun King.