Seeking Solstice Solace

Half-Staff (c) SMG December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice fell on a Friday.  A church bell, its percussive cut-off left to linger to its unmuffled end, pealed in remembrance of twenty children and six educators who were alive and beginning their elementary school day just a week ago.

Twenty-six knells.

When the bell began to ring it was snow-free but stormy, winds so high that a “wind warning” endured through early afternoon.  (No more practical guidance was dispensed to we travellers than has been available when a “terrorism alert” turns from sunny yellow to clementine.)

Then, as if there had been a sudden change of mind in the heavens, the sky became  brilliantly lit not long before sundown.  It remained that way–fully out of darkness (not merely halfway, as Dr. Who’s view of Christmas might have it) for the rest of daylight on a solstice far more than halfway to black.


At the time I happened to be surrounded by places of healing, filled with people like my husband Jim, who spend years of intense and difficult training in order to dedicate their  lives to professional service.

These are the kinds of skilled, compassionate people who stood at the ready at Connecticut hospitals last week, awaiting patients in fleets of ambulances which did not come.   Continue reading “Seeking Solstice Solace”


Phillips Church, Exeter, NH

My mother described this photograph, taken by a friend while I spoke at my husband’s memorial service, as resembling a “mini-Vermeer.”  The photograph is as I remember my surroundings from my perspective: only small crescents of light amid intricate dark wood panels and deep jewels of leaded glass.

And I remember blurred darkness as I spoke: the deep navy blue of my sleeve, the mahogany grain of the lectern against which my inadequate words swam in a shadow of black font on paper puckered and rippled from my fingers’ grip.

But I learned there was at least one entirely different perspective on what can be seen in the same photograph.

I wrote about light streaming through the University Chapel’s front glass windows, cued by the words “fill us with the light of day,” as Hymn to Joy was sung at a recent alumni memorial service.

One of my husband’s sisters responded that the story of the recent service reminded her “of the incredible sunlight coming in through the stained glass windows at Jim’s service in Exeter while you were talking about your life with him. It was simply stunning.”

I saw shadows; she saw the sunlight. Continue reading “Chiaroscuro”

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