The party had been in the works for weeks, a very special Wednesday evening Community Dinner, to feature potluck, eggnog, candlelit eggnog and garden tour, bonfire, ceremony, gift exchange, dancing and music!
Well, we didn’t quite get all the way through my long list of itemized plans (it was I who had set intention for the Solstice party), and, even better: there was a very unexpected surprise that blew us off-course and inspired us to just keep going, no matter what.
Before I tell you what that surprise was, let me say here, what I told everybody last night, that, as an astrologer, we should look to this kind of surprise as de rigueur during the coming years. That no matter what our well-made plans, most likely some kind of zinger will throw itself into the heart of it and, if we can manage to stay centered, no matter what, to be at ease with whatever arises, then that unwelcome surprise can ignite an even deeper frisson into the heart of creation.
Which is what happened.
We started sedately, with the careful setting out of lumenaria not only leading up to the house —
but in the back, along the many paths leading to greenhouse, tool shed, gardens, and even to the third house in back of these two which we are now in the process of purchasing. For that part of the “tour,” led by luminaria to the edge of the darkened back yard, we were told that this ground so far, terra incognita, since we have yet to touch it, transform it, help it too, grow food.
Okay, back to the beginning. The party was supposed to start at 5:30, but didn’t really get going until 6:30, when all of a sudden, everybody arrived at once, including seven children, between the ages of 11 weeks —
and I’m not sure how old Alex is, but I have a feeling 16. Her mother Heather, a neighbor about six blocks away, and her sister Adina all came in briefly, but then Heather said she was sick, and needed to get back to bed. Okay! I said. Let the girls stay. They can walk home in an hour or two. Good!
Probably 35 people circulated through here in all last night, not all of them at once.
The dinner itself was fabulous, and included astonishing desserts. Then came the bonfire, something the kids especially wanted to get outside for. We had saved a pile of brush for the occasion, and planned to light it into a huge fire that would burn quickly, while we were doing a short ceremony in honor of the Solstice.
But first, while Dan nursed the fire along, probably half the people present went on the garden tour, led by Garden Master Rebecca. I tagged along, still thrilled by the fact that our winter tour now includes a new greenhouse, three houses, their grounds, and the many winding paths and tiny ecosystems in between.
Okay back to the fire, which Rebecca now doused with gasoline. OOOOOOO!
Meanwhile, I had told everybody what the short Solstice Ceremony would consist of. First, a brief explanation of what Winter Solstice means, in terms of Earth’s relationship with the Sun, then one ring of a beautiful little set of gongs. Then, those who had just written down one word to indicate an attitude that they wanted to let go of on the paper that we passed around, might want to toss that little ugly secret into the fire. Then another gong. This time followed by about a minute of silence, in order to descend into the liminal space between the old year and the new, between the darkest, longest night, and the promise of the coming longer day. Then, finally, a third gong, to indicate the beginning of the new year, new attitude, and celebration!
Everybody was ranged around the fire. I had just sounded the first gong when, oops! the sound of fire engines on the street, stopped, complete with their ringing alarms. Oops!
“Quick, everybody,” instructed Aaron, throw your paper into the fire! So we all did, laughing, wondering what’s next.
“Ann, you’re going to have to go out there and greet them,” someone yelled. Yes. I started walking. Several firemen came through the front gate to meet me all decked out in uniform, looking stern, but not really. They told me that open fires are forbidden after dark inside city limits, “unless you get a permit.” How do we get a permit? “Just come on down to the station” (a couple of blocks away).
So we’ll do that next year.
Meanwhile, he continued. “It’s a $500 fine.” I asked: “Are you going to fine us?” “NO. We just want to stay until the fire is out.” Okay; so a phalanx of folks took buckets and filled them in the tub of the DeKist house and doused that fire quick. By this time, though the fire engines’ arrival had “ruined” our ceremony, the shock of their sudden penetration into the special atmosphere created for this evening thru the party into even higher gear.
“Come on everybody, let’s go back inside. We’ll do the ceremony there,” I advised. Which we did, standing in a circle in the living room, and observing a particularly powerful silence, followed by yes, the third gong, and then loud clapping. We did it!
Of course, we wondered who had called in the fire engines. The folks next door? I doubted it. We are far too familiar and friendly for that. They would have called me, not the city. (Confirmed the next day. Aggie, the neighbor, said they didn’t even hear it! Were watching TV, with the sound on loud. And “I would never do that to you!” “I know,” I told her. “But in case you would, I had some leftover eggnog to hand you.”)
From then on the energy flowed more and more swiftly,
not just the gift exchange —
But in all sorts of other ways, most of them involving intense, playful conversations among two or three people.
Then, all of a sudden, another surprise, this one set in motion by I have no idea who, but probably 2/3 of the people there started to get into formation for a photo, like the traditional family photos that none of us have patience for but submit anyway! But this family photo was voluntary on everyone’s part! A wave of human feeling moving into formation. I stood opposite, taking pictures, wishing I could get farther away, so to take in everybody at once.
Ari (on left, foreground, above) showed me how to take a “panorama” shot, which I did, but it’s pretty dark.
The party — I could hear guffaws from my bed at around 10 p.m. — finally wound down around midnight. And when I woke up this morning, the kitchen was “brand spankin’ clean.” YES!
Bright and early this morning podmates Ari and Dan were at their duties, composting, prior to Dan traveling home to Booneville, Indiana, for Christmas. Ari stays here. Brie leaves also. Leah leaves for good! — after finishing her double MA, for a job in Goshen, Indiana. Time moves on. Impermanence is the rule.
Oh BTW: we never did get to the dancing and music part. Didn’t need to. The best laid plans are mere outlines to help us get into the spirit of the season. And if our Solstice event was any indication of what’s ahead, we’re in for a very good time.