On Solstice Night….

Who knew? When I wrote about our winter solstice tradition of lighting luminarias to illuminate the longest night of the year and to carry our hopes into the dawn to come, and when I asked that anyone who was so moved set out a few luminarias for Richard because we can’t be home to hold our annual “Light the Darkness” celebration, I had no idea what the response would be.

I guess I didn’t have enough faith. My email in-box, cell phone texts, and my Facebook account are filling with messages and  photos of candles, lights, and luminarias, from snowy Washington, DC and Pennsylvania to the Texas Hill Country, from Washington state to California’s Eel River and southern New Mexico, and Treebones Resort in the wilds of the Big Sur coast to central Kansas and across the Atlantic to Sweden and Norway.

A taper on a fireplace mantle, a ring of tealights, electric Christmas tree lights, a special La Milagrosa candle, nine luminarias lining a path whose designer didn’t realize until tonight is itself exactly aligned with the setting sun at solstice, luminarias along sidewalks, atop walls, on porches….

Richard and I brought enough sand, candles and paper bags with us to Denver to put six luminarias on the front walk of Fisher House, the VA’s house for out-of-town patients where we’re staying. We went downstairs at dusk and Richard poured sand into our bags, and then I began lighting them. The waxing crescent moon drifted behind a haze of thin clouds as we finished and stood back to look at our little lights. Not many, we said to each other, but we were absurdly pleased to see their lights flicker in the gathering darkness. (That’s our line of luminarias at Fisher House above.)

Then we went inside and came upstairs to our room. I checked my email, and this is what we found:

Photographs of our friends at home, lining our sidewalks and porches with luminarias, just as if we were there. Here they are having folded and filled the bags–did I say we have a lot of sidewalk real estate, so we usually put out about 120 luminarias? (Photo by Sherrie York)

Now they’ve got them all lit and a hardy few who haven’t frozen yet are enjoying the light. Did I mention that the weather on Winter Solstice night at 7,000 feet elevation in the Rockies is not usually balmy? And that you have to light luminarias the old-fashioned way, candle by candle? (Photo by Elise Backinger)

Bless you all: from Salida to DC, and Big Sur to Washington state, from Texas to the Eel River to Kansas, from Baja California del Sur to Sweden and Norway. Thank you for helping us illuminate this longest night of
the year, the turning point when the sun “stops” in its journey, this time when we
all wait and hope, for the gradual return of light and life. And thank you for illuminating the extraordinary journey Richard and I are taking with brain cancer. You’ve renewed our faith, and our belief in the power of love and light. What a gift it is to have you all lighting our way!

And here are those beautiful luminarias, illuminating the darkness of our block in Salida, with the town’s Christmas Mountain lights in the background. (Photo by Sherrie York)

Happy Solstice, and may tonight’s lights bring warmth and hope to us all!