The Spirit of Solstice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASolstice Carole by the Wyrd Sisters

The fire is burning,

The long night draws near,

All who need comfort are welcome by here.

We’ll dance ‘neath the stars and toast the past year,

For the spirit of Solstice is still living here.

It’s the Winter Solstice; the longest night of the year. For eons people have celebrated this day as a time to count their blessings and to celebrate surviving through another cold, dark winter.  A season to rekindle hope and faith as the dark half of the year gives way to the light yet again.

My favourite tradition of the Solstice is the lighting of the Yule log, for there is something in my makeup, perhaps the faint echo of my ancestors still alive in my DNA, which is stirred by the simple act of making a fire and tending to its warmth.

I didn’t realize how much I need the comfort of a fire as essential to the nurturing of my soul as a hot bath, living in nature, and growing my own food until I lived on a hobby farm in the woods for five years.

The house I shared with my sister was small and nondescript but it was the diminutive cast-iron stove that made it the most amazing home I’ve ever lived in and one I still pine for since we moved two years ago.

We kept a pot of water on the stove scented with eucalyptus oil, or clove and cinnamon. And during the frequent power outages, it was the little wood stove that heated a pot of soup and another of hot water for washing and our morning coffee.

The crackle and pop as the flames consume wood has the mystical power to ward off the spirits of darkness and depression that seem inevitable when daylight is short and the snowdrifts are over my head.  My favourite place to be was reading a good book in front of the fire or just watching the flames dance and the embers glow as the fire drew me into silence and contemplation.

Most people prefer a gas fireplace over a real one because there is no muss and no fuss.  With the simple flick of a switch flames appear and warms the room.  They even work when the power goes out.

But it’s not for me, because the muss and fuss are as important to me as enjoying a fire; waking to a cold house and cleaning out the excess ash from the firebox, crumpling the paper, stacking the kindling just so, the scratch of a match and the curl of smoke as the fire comes to life, the smell of hot cast-iron as the stove heats up.  I relish all these things about a real fire, even splitting the logs and hauling in wood.  There is something magickal in these mundane activities.

The snapshot of memory I call forth when I’m forced to turn on the electric heater because of the cold and damp seeping up through the floor of my basement apartment is of snow and fire and the dark hush of a winter’s night on the farm.

After I’d put the chicken’s to bed for the night I would stop under the three hemlock trees that stood halfway between the barn and the house. From this vantage point I could see into the living room window where the fire burning merrily in the stove.  The absolute velvet of the night sky pierced with starlight, the smell of cold and ozone in the night air, the soft whisper of snow falling and the sight of that warm little room gave me such peace and contentment.

This holiday season I am surrounded by two generations of family and a menagerie of furry four-legged companions.  In a few days we will be joined by yet another sister traveling all the way from Australia to spend time with us at Christmas.

As the evening draws in on the longest night of the year, the candles are lit to ward of the dark spirits; their flickering flames a reminder to have faith and hope, even at this the darkest hour.  The evergreen tree takes pride of place in the living room, a symbol of continuity and life everlasting.

There are brightly wrapped presents below the tree for all the ones I hold dear, small tokens of my gratitude and best wishes.

And despite not having a Yule log or a hearth to burn it in, the spirit of solstice is definitely still living here.

To watch the Solstice Carole Video click here

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Your Relationship With Your House

I just finished writing a story where the house is as much a character as the people. It is a snug little cottage that at first, welcomes the new owner but below the surface it hides its own mystery and pain. As I wrote, I thought about the way houses have a personality, a feeling about them good or bad and I wondered how this comes about.

I believe that in some cases it’s because of spirits that still linger. I’ve had enough first-hand experience not to question the possibility of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. But what about places that have no spectral visitors but still elicit an emotional response from visitors. What is it we are feeling?

At the most basic level we are all energy. Thoughts and emotions are no different, just another form of energy. So if a home is filled with loving people, where the events were positive can these energies become imprinted into the very walls and floors? And would the reverse be true, if a building has witnessed trauma, violence and deep unhappiness would that too become part of the fabric of the building.

So what allows a dwelling to record the lives of its previous owners or the events that occurred there? If most building materials are porous and can absorb sound, is it just an accumulation of these sound waves that contribute to the overall feel of a home; much like a sponge absorbing water. Or could it be something more? What if it is more like a relationship that over time becomes an indelible bond between house and homeowner?

I recently read The Bond, Connecting Through The Space Between Us by Lynne McTaggart. In her book she explores the nature of bonds not just between human beings but between our environment, the natural world, our solar system and even the universe. It is a fascinating read and a book I highly recommend.

In discussing Heisenberg’s “quantum field theory” she states the following;

He discovered that at our most fundamental layer of being, our subatomic particles not only aren’t really a definable anything, but also do not remain the same at any moment. . . . All subatomic particles are constantly trading information with their environment and being reshuffled in a dynamic pattern. The universe contains and indeterminate number of vibrating packets of energy that constantly pass energy back and forth as if in an endless game of basketball with the quantum sea of light.

Further she writes:

Nature’s most basic ingredients are bundles of energy that are indistinguishable from the field around it. According to quantum field theory, the individual entity is transient and insubstantial, and particles cannot be separated from the empty space around them. Although you appear the same at any given moment, you are an entirely new batch of subatomic energy with every breath you take.

Rather than a batch of separate things jostling around in empty space, it is more correct to say that fundamental matter is simply a relationship between two indeterminate things: particle energy traded with other particle energy and also with the background Field. It is in fact the Bond between these tiny particles and the background Field that creates everything that we refer to as “matter.

She concludes her description of the relationship between energy and the Zero-Point field with the following:

What this essentially boils down to is that everything we label an object, no matter how large or how heavy, is essentially a collection of electric charges interacting with other energy. The most basic property of matter, its sense of being a solid “something,” is only and entirely due to the Bond between subatomic particles and the background sea of energy.” A subatomic “particle” is simply the seeking of a connection in the space between a big web of energy and a little knot of energy. You and everything around you are simply a collection of charged energy having a relationship.

I know that the above quotes deal with a purely scientific description of an energetic relationship but I’m a fiction writer so I’m allowed to make the next supposition if only as an exercise in creativity.

So if we are energy having a relationship with other energy and the Zero-point Field by constantly exchanging subatomic particles and our environment includes our home what if what was going on was that over time the energy that was once house is now you and vice versa. And in that back and forth relationship would the memories and emotions be part of that exchange?

And what about the house? Over time do we take on the history of the trees that the framing is constructed from, or the feeling of a mountain from which the stone was quarried. And what about the people who built the house, the land that it is situated on or the furniture inside it?

My mind fizzes with the possibilities.

What kind of relationship are you having with your home? Do you have a blissful union or do you require couples counselling? Or maybe it’s time to find a new house mate.

Something to ponder isn’t it?