Monday, June 22, 2009

Thrice blessed, the return of the sun!

Happy Winter Solstice everyone!
I'm really pleased actually coz this is the first time I have actively celebrated a solstice/equinox off my own bat, in a meaningful way. I have meant to for years, but somehow never got around to it. I only remembered it was winter solstice when I logged onto facebook and saw that some friends of mine were going to CERES to the celebration being held there. I would have liked to have gone, but I'd just got back from being away for a few days with Indi and I wanted to snuggle at home with my baby and my man and my cats and not go anywhere. I still wanted to do something special. So I went about the house and gathered up a bunch of candles of all kinds, candles I've been collecting over the years but which I never really use very often. I spread them around our open plan lounge/dining/kitchen area, some in pretty coloured candle holders, hanging from cup hooks in the kitchen, sitting on top of bookshelves, on the mantlepiece, on the kitchen table, wherever there was a free surface (not an easy thing to find at our place). I lit them all and turned off the lights and instantly it was magical, a transformed space of sacred wonder. It's amazing the effect candles have, and instantly I wondered why I don't do this more often. Then the answer came to me - fire hazard! But it's nice to do it for special occasions. So there we sat, surrounded by our flickering points of brilliance and colour, pretty patterns dancing on our walls and ceiling as the light shone through the patterned coloured glass.
The lighting of the candles, to me, represents a return of the lengthening of the days, a return of the light, the return of the sun. This means a lot to me, as I'm quite solar powered and find it very easy to be joyful and happy when the sun is bright and the sky is blue. Conversely, dull overcast days are to be endured, and often leave me struggling and flat. I think this is quite common. Also, even though we really are only at the start of winter, on some level the lengthening of days tells some deep part of me that on the other side of winter is spring, my favourite time of the year, and that it's not really that far away. Winter has it's charm, to be sure - the snuggling in front of the heater, the nourishing soups and stews that one suddenly wants to cook, the chill of the cold on your cheeks on big long walks that would leave one wilted and frowny in summer, and the brilliance of cold blustery ocean power. But really, to be honest, of all the seasons it's probably my least favourite. I don't hate it, but I don't relish it either. Maybe for a few weeks in Autumn when I'm sick to death of the summer heat and the first few tendrils of cool air wrap themselves around me I enjoy it. But once the cold really sets in and gets below 15 degrees it's just drudgery for me. So raising my chin to the lengthening days and thinking of the spring to come helps me through the dark cold of winter.
So back to our little evening last night. I gazed across at the candles hanging in the kitchen from the cup hooks, congratulating myself on how beautiful it all was, and I spied the bottle of red wine sitting on the bench, three quarters full. And suddenly I thought of mulled wine. I don't know if it's a traditional winter solstice libation, but it damn well should be, and will be in our household from now on I can definitely say. I jumped online for a recipe, as I'd never had it, and was pleased to see I had most of the ingredients in my pantry. Fifteen minutes later Mat and I were sipping with wide eyed delight our first mouthfuls of mulled wine, and wondering why we'd never done this before. Indi had her stemmed brandy glass of herbal tea, which we usually give her when we're having a drink, so she doesn't feel left out, and in her usual good natured fashion she proposed a toast, and another, and another, and I thought it fitting that the Winter Solstice should be celebrated with three cheers. Hence the name of this post.
I sat on the loungeroom floor and sipped my wine, watching Mat and Indi play and laugh together, and I took a moment to harness the energy of the returning sun, to ask for it's blessing on my life and the lives of those I love, to shed it's life giving warmth on us all and help us to grow and love and laugh together, to blossom and thrive. And I felt the energy surge through me, powerfully, enhanced by the glow of the spiced wine, and it felt good.
And suddenly, with a bit of effort and attention and good spirit, we have what I would dare to call a family tradition on our hands, and it feels right. The lighting of the candles, the triple blessing with mulled wine, some time spent together feeling the specialness of it. I'm sure as the years pass, as the kids grow, other things will be added, special foods that they look forward to, special craft activities. This makes me really happy. I have felt for a while the lack of meaningful ritual and tradition in my life, never having been satisfied by those offered up my my own Turkish upbringing or those of mainstream Australian society. For a while I have had an urge to celebrate the solstices and the equinoxes, and to be more aware of the full and new moons. Gradually I'm getting there. These are the events that I feel are worth celebrating, the cosmic points of significance that move and shape us, whether we are aware of them or not. I believe that becoming more aware of them, spending some thoughful time on them, enhances their healing and invigorating power and harmonises us with our environment, with the universe within which we sit.
So here's to a future with many more celebrations, and lots more mulled wine!

Mulled Wine Recipe
1 bottle of merlot red wine
A good splash of brandy and/or whisky (I used both)
1/2 a cup of water
1 sliced orange
1/2 a sliced lemon
3/4 of a cup of sugar
5 star anise
7 cloves
1 whole nutmeg, broken into pieces
2 cinnamon sticks

Pour a bit of the wine (a third?) into a saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for five or so minutes, til it smells really good, but not too long. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the bottle of wine. Most recipes tell you to add all of the wine from the start but I think way to much of the good stuff must evaporate that way, so I chose this method and it worked wonderfully. Strain into a special looking jug or teapot (I used a silver one carved with swirling patterns that my mother bought me years ago from Turkey) and pour into your most special glasses. Sit back with loved ones, cheers each other three times from the heart, and enjoy!

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