Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year...

My daughter crept quietly into our bedroom just after 7 this morning.
I was already awake, sitting up at the side of the bed.

I asked: "It's already light outside. Do you still wanna go?"
She answered: "Yup."

So she put a sweatshirt on over her pajamas.
I put on my long red robe over mine.

We went out to the minivan, and I immediately started to cry. I'm emotional that way. Just the sight of a glorious morning sky makes me weep. (No, it's not my hormones this time.)

We drove up the street and around the corner.
We drove through a few parking lots and turned around in a few circles.
Then we discovered the perfect spot.
To watch the sun rise over the horizon.

You see, this morning was the winter solstice.
The beginning of the shortest day of the year.
The hours of daylight will lengthen from now on.

Last night before bed, Kristiana explained to me that she'd been reading a book about a teenage homeschooler who invited her whole town to join her to watch the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice. To welcome the beginning of a new cycle of life. She was obviously impressed and inspired by her heroine's adventure. Then, tentatively, she asked me if I'd be willing to go watch the sunrise with her. "Of course I will go with you."

We sat there in the car, watching colors burst across the sky. Clouds parted.
Traffic lights and power lines obstructed our view, but we watched anyway.

As we looked on, we talked about how real estate development and busyness and traffic hassles have distracted so many people from the glory of creation. We recalled driving along a local road one afternoon a couple of years ago when we saw a double rainbow in the sky - the entire length of both rainbows was visible. I opened my window and screamed out my delight. I pointed to the sky. I tried to get other drivers to look. A few seconds later, we stopped at a traffic light, and I looked around. All eyes in all the cars were glued on the red light, willing it to turn green. No one seemed to be paying attention to the double strand of red/orange/yellow/green/blue/indigo/violet splendor that hung just overhead. I wanted to scream, "What's wrong with you people?" but thought better of it. I probably would have been arrested for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace at the next intersection. The magnificent double rainbow nobody sees. The ranting, raving, shouting, laughing, crying black woman with wild dreadlocs pointing towards the sky - everybody sees her.

Anyway, back to today's events... Recently Kristiana and I read that wonder is the purest form of worship. There we sat together. In wonder. In worship. Mother and daughter. In our pajamas. In the minivan. Together. Talking. Crying (I was crying. She was fine.) It was a perfect moment.

As we sat there, Kristiana read a familiar passage from Isaiah.
Familiar especially at this time of year.

"Arise, shine, for your Light has come.
The glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

On this morning of the shortest day of the year, we arose to see the light shine, to see the glory rise upon us from the Eastern sky. Good news: There is only more light to come in the coming days and weeks. More Light Indeed.

On the way home, I thanked her for inviting me to join her.
She flicked her elegant wrist and wryly said, "I needed a ride."

Merry winter solstice night!
Merry Christmas!

Addendum - It's 10:45 pm. Kristiana just informed me that today is NOT the winter solstice after all. I guess I'm not such a great homeschooling teacher - my daughter hasn't yet mastered the art of reading the calendar. But the rest of the story is true; it really is. We can try for another sunrise viewing on a later date. Oh well...


Smell Goods '98™ said...

So special. That is so me. You put me right there with you. We would of been crying together, trust me. LOL!

Amy said...


What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, emotions, and wonder. Ah, the wonder ... it is pretty awesome and overwhelming!


Lisa said...

Ah, just one more reason why I love you and your family so much.

Very cool story -and experience. Wish I could have been there with you!



Maya Stein said...

Gail -

beautiful post, thank you. and what a wonderfully soulful, hopeful, inspiring, poignant, life-affirming moment with your daughter. I love that you took this time together, that you both recognized the value (and in many ways, the virtue) of honoring the wonder of the first day of winter (even if you were off by a day!). I find it a perfect kind of irony that that the shortest day of the year happens at the same time as the first day of winter, reminding us that even as we head into this cold season, we are simultaneously being offered more light as the days move forward.

Thanks for sharing this moment with us.