Hannah waits outside my door now, in case I forget that dog-walking is on her mind 24-7. Whenever I get in the car to go to Portland or the bank or any other errand, she imagines I am going for a walk without her. I suppose some dogs require psychics to interpret what they think but Hannah will never be one. She is an open book.

I put on my warmest coat, adding sweat pants to long underwear, give into her big eyes and drive to the library. No one is walking the paths, so I let her off leash where she wanders, smells, stays close and eats bird poop. Her spirit is so gentle that ducks cross her path without hurrying their step. The water is perfectly still. Day turning to night is mirrored in miles of calm water, as hundreds of Canadian Geese swirl above our heads in silhouette. It is such a fine thing to walk the paths in the evening, to breathe the air, wash away remnants of work and escape holiday madness.

The faces of shoppers seem so pushed and tight now, as they add celebration dinner, finding and wrapping presents, family and visiting friends to already full schedules. Add to that a lunar eclipse and a month of mercury retrograde and it’s a wonder anyone is sane. If we are taking on the finding and purchasing of a tree, replacing last years lights and writing out Christmas cards, the least we can do as a culture, is to declare a national work freeze from November 30th, to January 1st. Then folks might actually enjoy the holiday, the solstice and festival of lights.

A great blue heron perches on one leg as Hannah and I walk past, only inches away. I wonder why she doesn’t fly off and decide it’s something about the coming of night and the need to stay put. My mind goes to a homeless man I met the day before, who sat on a cold windy step, a single glove covering his face as he tried to sleep. I had just bought Isabella a massage. We were smiling and laughing, getting into our warm car with heated seats when I saw him. I pulled what cash I had from my wallet in the hope of buying him dinner, walked over and tapped his shoulder. He looked up, surprising me with the intelligence in his face and eyes that shone with light. “Thank you,” he said softly. I thought about his pain, felt grateful for the many blessings in my life, turned my back on him and drove away.

The world is so full of contrast. How does one hold happiness in one hand and suffering in another?  It feels like the winter solstice where the dark and light sit side by side in equal measure. No wonder we illuminate our roads, houses and trees to fend off darkness and beg the light back into our lives.

Our walk is nearly over. I put Hannah on her leash as we near the car, searching the contents of my pocket. No keys. My pocket is empty. I suddenly feel very tired and discouraged as I imagine going around the paths again, the time it will take, and the probability of finding car keys in the dark. My car sits on a hill in the lot under a street lamp. I glance in that direction, noticing a glint of silver on the roof. My keys are perched there, right where I left them, graciously untouched. They say there are spirits who watch over fools and children. Apparently they watch over preoccupied women as well.

5 thoughts on “Solstice

  1. A lovely, thought-provoking piece, my friend. What is the answer? How do we hold happiness in one hand, suffering in the other?

  2. I love this. It’s so beautifully written and moving. I also noticed what you said about the faces of shoppers being pushed and tight, especially on Christmas Eve.

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