Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Shortest Day

Cate, you have a fan club and I'm officially a member. The secret handshake is in the development phase. Great post!

Wifey has been a member of the Revels cast several times dating back to the 1980s. She thinks of Revels as a family, and draws inspiration from their resurrection of traditional holiday celebrations. Even Little Man treasures the On Christmas Day in the Morning book. Every year Wifey calls her sister on the Solstice to wact recite The Shortest Day, loudly, dramatically. It's hilarious and beautiful.

The Shortest Day
By Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

With the recent death of Revels founder John Langstaff, I send light and love to his family and to the entire Revels community. All Things Considered did a nice memorial piece. The Boston Globe published a lovely obituary. We will be attending the memorial services to be held in late February.

In my fantasy world, I would attend a Revels performance every Dec. 21st. However, Sander's Theatre at Memorial Hall would be magically transported to Co. Meath. Then we'd dance over to Newgrange for the stunning display of Celtic genius.

Even without combing every corner of the globe, I can safely say that Newgrange is my favorite place on the planet. Wifey and I had the privilege of traveling through Ireland in early 2002. We bought a plane ticket, a set of B&B vouchers, and reserved a car. We had no agenda. It was perfect. We spent time the first couple days on the Aran Islands (go ahead, be jealous), then traveled through Co. Galway, Co. Sligo (where we met Wifey's great-uncle), Co. Westmeath, Co. Meath, and Co. Dublin (where we picked up the trail of my ancestors at the National Archives (who issued me a bi-lingual English-Gaelic photo ID).

Wifey jokes that without intending to, we did the "pre-Christian tour of Ireland," and I have hundreds of photos of carved stone to prove it. While in Co. Meath, we spent a long time at Newgrange and the surrounding sites, and I fell deeply in love with the area. Unlike archeological sites in the U.S., the Irish authorities allow people to touch, enter and truly experience the wonders. On a guided tour, we walked into the center of the Neolithic tomb, saw the roof box that illuminates the central chamber every year on the Solstice, and touched the rock that my ancestors cut, carved, and cherished.

Every year, there's a lottery to determine who is invited to enter Newgrange on the Solstice. Someday I will be there to see the light of the sun shine into this 5,000 year old stone chamber. In the meantime, I will ink this image into the skin between my shoulder blades:

The tri-spiral on the left of this photo, from the entrance stone at Newgrange, was supposed to be added to my body on my 30th birthday, but we were broke-ass-broke. For my 31st Birthday, we were broke-ass-broke. As soon as I see a teeny windfall (Christmas?), I'm heading to the tattoo shop in Rhode Island.

Let the new Sun shine on my finances and allow me to tattoo homage to my ancestors over the center of my spine.



Anonymous said...

Wow, I had a great time looking through the gallery on that tattoo site... almost makes me want one myself!

Anonymous said...


Of course I know nobody's going to tell *me* the secret handshake. Because if I had a fan club, it would be like that. :)

Love the song, love the tales of auld ireland. Someday, someday. Though probably not until the kids can understand "homophobic" "pope" and "cultural and political colonialism."

Merry solstice, my friend.

Andygrrl said...

I am so jealous! Thanks for giving me spring break ideas...

and now I love Susan Cooper even more.

Nadira said...

I LOVED Newgrange, and I think that will make a fabulous tatoo.