Three years ago, my second official article on T Ching was The Longest Night, The Winter Solstice, and Tea. Within, I wrote about the meaning of the solstice, my tradition of doing a candle vigil for it, and observing for the first time with my new husband.
So much has changed, both for me and for the world. And yet, so much has stayed the same.
Last year I had to skip this tradition. I was still much too weak, physically, to observe it; having recently escaped my husband. Now, after a year of healing and recovery, I am once again undergoing the oft-grueling task of staying up all night.
This year, everything is different. I live in a new place, with new people. The country in which I reside has many things shut down for our safety. I can’t go out and meet with friends. So I decided to work with this change instead of against.
Before sunset I carefully carved all of the blackened wax out of my old white pillar candle. It was jagged and uneven, but cleaner. Beautiful in its rawness. And then, at 4:25 PM my local time, I lit the candle and spoke a few words. I placed it in a glass lantern with a handle so I could take it with me more easily since my “room” has two levels.
I found small, simple, beautiful ways to celebrate. I had dinner with one of my housemates while we chatted about our lives and mutual acquaintances. I had a glass of wine. I cuddled with my cat ( and took selfies of him gazing up at me adoringly ). At around 1AM, I had a video tea date with a friend. ( He was drinking peppermint tea. I was drinking Assam. ) We talked about accidents we’ve been in, antics of our pets, stupid things we’ve done, our experiences with electric fences, and how we’d met. But through it all: Tea.
I had thought that I would start with black tea in my grandmother’s teapot and then later have green tea in my beloved cast-iron teapot. Instead, the caffeine in the black tea raised my blood pressure enough that I know I’ll have to get through the rest of the night drinking nothing but water, lest I have a seizure ( a sure end to the evening ). But I have my cast iron teapot. I have my grandmother’s teapot. I have my cat. I have my life. I celebrate these things. And I celebrate the turning of the seasons. I celebrate the return of the light.
In my mind, it is no coincidence the number of ceremonies and celebrations that feature light and fire during this time. During the dark, we crave the light. To guide us. To give us warmth. To share wisdom with illumination so we need not fear the dark.
I do not fear the dark. Forget the candle burning in front of me: The fire within my soul burns brightest of all. And I wish that for all of you. May you have good tea that warms your heart. And may your fire burn bright through the long night.
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