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Chasing the Fugitive: Thoughts on Winter Solstice | Carolyn Flynn

Every year, as we approach Winter Solstice, I chase the fugitive. It may seem I am chasing the light, but what I think I’m chasing is the temporal. What I find instead is the eternal.

The fugitive is the light, leaving us each day. Today it left at 4:55 p.m. We had 9 hours, 48 minutes of sun. By the time Winter Solstice comes, Dec. 21, at 9:48 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, it will be the shortest day of the year. On that day there will be only 9 hours, 45 minutes and 55 seconds of light.

My sense of this chase heightens every year. I adorn the rooftops, the Christmas tree, the hearth, every pillar and post of the house with strings of lights. The sun sets, and I light candles in every corner.

At first, it was a chase for what I was losing – first, my father, who died in November, now 20 years ago. Then, my mother, who was born during these darkest days, just three days before Winter Solstice, and who died two years ago. So when her birthday approached that year, and I faced the prospect of hitting that moment on the calendar when she would have turned 80, I had to confront the reality of doing it without her body and her breath and her light and her music … the darkness I saw was unfathomable.

Then there is the matter that I also turn one year older each year on Winter Solstice (see last year’s post, on “Welcome to the Dark: The Invitation of Winter Solstice.”). My dear friend Tom, an amateur astronomer and avid student of the movements of the sparkling night sky, likes to remind me that on this day, the earth turns on its axis and from that moment on, we are headed to the light.

I used to chase this, focused more on what was eluding me than what was coming to me.

I was growing older, and life was now demanding that I contemplate what it would be like to walk this earth as an orphan, both of my parents on the other side.

They are no longer here to guide me with their living wisdom. I miss them, and I miss the protection they offered in every breath they took.

I miss knowing that as I explore the deepening of life, I cannot test my new learning with their mentorship. I cannot simply ask, “Did you contemplate this, too, what your life was to signify, whether it was something… or nothing? What light did you shed on that question?”

Truthfully, I miss the protection their lives offered against the day I would begin my own turn on the path toward death — my own turning back from the temporal and turning toward the eternal.

But here’s what I know for sure: Life is richer for this turning in.

It is there, in the turning in, that I have found the soulfire, the source of my creative genius, the eternal light that guides me in finding meaning in my life. It’s there that I find my sacred yes. It is there that I become much clearer on what I must do — what my contribution is to this place on the planet, this time.

Every story I create — whether it’s my novel, essays for “Straight to Heaven,” or new stories that are emerging — is more alive for knowing that I’m going to die, but being able to hold that.

Every relationship I have, I invest in with my authentic presence. I filled up my home last night with lights and candles, friends and laughter. It was my thank you to those who have stayed steady with me as I have struggled with the temporal, the cold hard reality of loss.

So this elusive light, as it departs, leaves a gift, the gift of love and mystery, and the invitation to come in to the light.

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