The sun will stand still at 5:11 p.m. this Saturday (not literally, but it will look that way if you are using ancient astronomical tools of measurement), marking the longest night of the year, and the return of light to our desolate lands. Winter solstice is the single day of the holiday season that is universally acknowledged. We may not all find reason to celebrate a virgin birth or a miracle of economy, but none can deny that our days, nights, and seasons are ruled by the Earth’s angle to the sun we orbit.
In ancient times, solstice was celebrated as the end of the end of harvest. From this day forward, villages would live only on the bounty they had saved from the previous growing season, cooped up together until the winter weather permitted reasonable outdoor adventure. For many, this meant that they would not survive the harsh “starvation season.” In a defiant act of gluttony, solstice (or Yule, Brumalia, Dongzhi, etc., etc.) celebrations were centered around a feast. Livestock were killed around this time so they would not need to be fed through the winter; wine prepared in October would be ready to drink by solstice, and the people, after working hard all year to grow, harvest, and put away enough food for winter, were more than ready to eat and drink their bounty. While we modern humans may not feel the harbingers of death so close at hand in our centrally heated homes, with 24-hour grocery stores on every main road and more entertainment than we could possibly consume to get us through the cold months, we should still take this day to gather together with friends and neighbors, reflect on good times had and good times to come, and most important—to eat, drink, and be merry!
Earlier this week, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with a relatively new friend, and listening to a newly released album all the way through. It was my friend’s 66th birthday, and on recommendation from my personal music guru/father, David Brewster, I picked up the recording of Neil Young Live at The Cellar Door, an acoustic concert he gave at the age of 25 in Washington DC. Neil’s high, strange voice coming through the speakers prompted Bob to reminisce about seeing Neil live in his youth, and to remember an old acquaintance who had introduced him to a member of Crazy Horse. The combination of Bob’s stories, the sweet, uncomplicated music, and a bellyful of roast chicken and my homemade carrot cake transported me to The Cellar Door in 1970, I closed my eyes and watched Neil Young’s songs like they were being written in front of me. I felt like I knew Bob better, and like I knew my own dad better, too. This is what art does for us; it connects humans to humanity. It lets us tap into the huge channel of love flowing through us that we tend to ignore in favor of LED screens, tight schedules, convenient shortcuts like fast or frozen food, and petty concerns about the way we appear to other people. Art saves us from ourselves by introducing us to others—it forces us to feel compassion.
At solstice time it is hard to forget that we are people who live on a planet with billions of other people—especially if you’re vying for a parking spot at the mall. So slow down on Saturday; give up your parking space to a stranger. Find out some things about people you’d like to know and share your own stories as well. Read a novel cover to cover. Make a meal to be enjoyed over hours. Sing with friends. Whatever you do, find some way to stir a little love into the pot; something to help us all get through the dreary winter.
Friday night, the Driftwood Players are presenting Edmonds with an excellent opportunity to connect with one another, share a bounty, and have a grand ol’ time. The annual Holiday Sing-Along and Food Drive goes from 7-9 p.m. tonight at the Wade James Theater at 950 Main St. Admission is free to the public, though attendees are encouraged to bring a donation of non-perishable food items for the Edmonds Food Bank.
— By Juliet Brewster
Artfully Edmonds columnist Juliet Brewster, an Edmonds native and Edmonds-Woodway High School graduate, has a degree in literature from Bennington College. To have your arts happening listed, email her at email@example.com.