I awoke to the start of the shortest day of the year before daylight, feeling a bit baffled that the end of the darkest days of the year are almost behind me. Where did this month go? While I sipped my coffee, Mr. Big, the hummingbird, appeared for his morning beverage of choice at the feeder, and commenced his daily preening ritual outside my window. He always starts by flexing his shoulders back as far as he can stretch. Then he flutters his wings to the sides and back, sometimes scratching his head with his small foot. He sings a lot in the morning and makes a very loud to-do about things. For several minutes, he is a tiny ball of motion stretching neck and head and legs and wings. He tips his beak skyward, reaches forward, and licks the morning air with his tongue. Finally, he fluffs his feathers and snuggles down onto the dogwood twig, where he will sit and ponder the new day for the next hour or so….
I am loving my shared mornings with Mr. Big. When he is late, I find myself glancing at the clock and fretting until he shows up. Is he okay? Did he have an accident with a cat? Such are the concerns that come with making friends of your wild neighbors; You worry about them, yet you are powerless to truly keep them safe. Perhaps that tenuousness is one of the reasons these relationships are so precious.
For solstice evening, I have planned a small house blessing ceremony after I get back from a gathering at my yoga studio. “Bring sweets, and your own dinner service, and come meet your fellow yogis and yoginis!” I rarely go out at night in the winter, but I believe the mingling with other solstice-minded souls will do me good. For my ceremony, I’ve cut up a square of red cloth and put it on the fireplace mantle. Today, I’ll spend some time placing small items on that red cloth that will serve as symbols of my dreams for this house. Perhaps I’ll place a small stone heart there to represent the joyful heart I want this house to hold. And maybe a piece of crystal for healing, some herbs for purity, a feather for spirit power.
Then, I’ll tie up my little square, smudge it, bless it, and sit with my pipe and pray. The little house blessing bundle will go to live by my elk skull at the mantle—a fine reminder of prayers, dreams, and hopes.
Having made plans for the evening, I figured I would spend my time choring today. My gifts from this day would come after dark, I told myself. It was actually a bit on the warmer side this morning, so I decided to get into my trough pond and repair the filter hose that had fallen off. The trough is so deep, I have to wear short sleeves to dig around in it, so I was especially grateful for the kinder-than-normal temperatures this morning.
My two goldfish came out to visit my arms and fingers. Purchased for thirty cents each last summer, these two then-tiny “feeder” fish are tiny no more. Each is about the size of my hand, and friendly as a puppy. While they gently nibbled my arms, I pulled up the large black filter from the pond bottom, knocking aside one of the flat stones covering the bottom of the trough. Out shot three very big tadpoles. These guys had been tiny, too, last summer when I brought them home. Now, they look like plump gray egg yolks with tails. And legs. Legs? Legs!
I had no idea tadpoles continued to morph during the winter months, but clearly, they must. No one had legs last autumn, I’m certain of that. I look closely for such things, being a woman transfixed by little life’s little details. I ran into the house all giddy to tell Carter. “Legs!” I said. “One of the tadpoles has legs! We’ll have bullfrogs this summer!” I don’t really know if such things enchant Carter, but he makes a good show of it, in any case.
“Legs! How cool is that!?” He smiled, and made no mention of the water dripping from my arms onto the hardwood floors. I hurried back outside. Isn’t that just like Nature to remind me of new beginnings on this longest darkness of the year? I stretched my shoulders back like Mr. Big. The long, hard year behind me suddenly let go of my ankles just a bit. New legs to carry us forward, a vision of growing strong and true right there in the pond. Isn’t life a wonder?
I reconnected the filter hose with an old hose-clamp left behind by the previous home owners and started the pump running again. Water poured in a cheery trickle from the fountain bucket into the pond and the goldfish waltzed in the bubbles. Next stop was the overgrown spirea bush by our front porch. Someone had told me the proper method for trimming these things, so I plunged in and did my best to give the gangly, unruly mass some breathing room. I’m not a gifted gardner. Pruning is traumatic for me. By the time I crawled out from under the bush, I had cut away a good third of the plant, mostly dead or spindly old wood. My hair was full of twigs and my clothes were soaking wet. My shoulders were tired and my hands ached.
Stepping back to grab a rake, I nearly fell over something I had never seen before: A lovely cement mushroom was sitting on the edge of the grass. It had been there all along, under the mass of spirea branches. Not two nights before, I had a wistful thought about how nice it would be to find some mushroom yard art for our garden. I love mushrooms. They are magic: the brain beneath the soil that interconnects us all. Mushroom, healer and spirit guide. Even as I write this, mushrooms are being used to help clean up the radiation at Fukushima. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I had a forever-mushroom of my own. It was as though someone had crept up behind me and put the statue there. I think someone did. I never saw it the whole time I was whacking at the bush.
Two unexpected gifts and lessons for me this solstice day: Strong legs are here to carry me into the coming light. Small, tiny legs right how, but growing…growing. Mushroom, the cleanser, the healer, the vision-keeper, the great connector, sends her energy to me this day. I can’t suppress my smile. Most certainly, the small, seemingly mundane moments of life can be as huge, or as tiny, as our hearts’ capacity for wonder and gratitude.
May this solstice find you enfolded in the small and the sacred.