Actually, there are no photos to be found here. I instead wish to draw for you an image with my words and hope you can find it in your mind’s eye. Let it slowly come into view. I want it to stay with you so that you can find it in a special little pocket in your heart, just at the moment when your heart is aching, or if your uncertainty about these times that we live in has knocked you to your knees in fear. At that precise moment you will be able to find this little image right where you’ve been carrying it. Let it remind you of the Beauty that resides within us in each moment…if, we will remember to notice.
On Winter Solstice night I attended a ritual that’s been a part of my life for many years: the Spiral of Light. On this night, each year, we move into the very next rotation of our dear, glowing, blue-green home, as the day-length becomes imperceptibly longer while the night is moments shorter and we move from one grand, spiraling cycle, into the beginning of the next.
Two women who’ve been shepherding this gathering for many years had just completed the laying out of a huge double-spiral labyrinth on the wooden floor of a grand and simple room where three large windows let in the darkness of this night. Graceful spirals formed of garlands from one of our most treasured native trees, the Western Red cedar, were now laid across the floor. The fragrance of the cedar and the magnificence of the form were a profound signal to all who arrived: the moment when one spiraling season flows into the next was near at hand. Garnet-red apples, each holding one white candle, were carefully arranged on silver platters at the entrance of the Spiral.
One of the longtime caretakers of this ritual entered and began to slowly walk the path. When she arrived at the center, where the Mother candle patiently waited, she made her prayers and lit our central Fire. The few electric lights still burning were extinguished. We were achingly aware of the deep darkness surrounding the light of that one lone candle.
Slowly, gently, and in silence, neighbors, friends, family, and strangers entered the room – some with great anticipation, others timid with the prospect of an unknown experience. We surrounded the deep green Spiral. Tender notes from a harp quieted our last remnants of the outside world. Choral voices embraced us with song. We became a grand, living, breathing organism with one flame at our center.
A candle nestled into the center of an apple was offered to a woman sitting at the cedar-lined entrance. She wound her way into the center, walking along one arm of the Spiral, making her approach to the Mother Light, holding her apple tenderly. Carefully leaning in, she lit her candle from that one flame, and one more small, glowing light arose in the near-dark room. Moving along the Spiral, walking outward, she carefully set the candlelit apple down among the cedar boughs.
One by one, over eighty in all, each person silently walked into the Spiral to the Mother Light and dipped in – each shining a little more Light out into our world. Harp music soothed our tender souls. Choral voices enveloped us with grace and courage. The Light warmed our hearts. Together we witnessed the returning of the Light.
When all who wanted to walk the Spiral had participated, we sat in silence beholding this miracle. The Light had returned. Tears again came into my eyes, as they had all evening. All at once the outer door opened: a late arrival. A rush of fresh, winter air entered, followed by a young woman holding an infant. To my delight, here came a neighbor, a dear friend carrying her four-month-old son in her arms. Overjoyed to see her standing there, I imagined what it must have taken to orchestrate her leaving her family at this hour, with another young one at home, in order to join us. I was deeply touched by her willingness and commitment: it was eight-o-clock at night, it was dark and cold, but there she was holding her child, standing before us.
A woman, a stranger in fact…was standing near the entrance and reached out her arms as if to say, “I’ll hold him while you walk.” We all sat silent and watched a beautiful young mother give herself this gift: in the middle of a season of jam-packed activities day and night, with two young children, she was determined to take this bit of time to pause, to be silent, to enter the darkness and join us in the returning of the Light. Tears rolled down my cheeks, as I watched her make her spiraling approach, watched her lean into the Center and light her candle. She was calm and focused, taking her time with the Mother Light – as much as she needed, then finding a place for her candle, she moved back out to join us.
She approached the woman holding her child. The woman had not yet herself walked the labyrinth, and offered to carry her son into the Spiral of Light. This wise mother watched her precious child as the Light filled his face and sparkled in his wide-open eyes. He was silent. He was awe-struck. We were silent. We were awe-struck. Around and around they went, all the way into the Center where they were bathed in the Mother Light. His beautiful clear-eyed gaze drank in every single detail. Slowly they wound their way out and with each slight turn, another person around the circle was bathed in the Light reflected in his beautiful face. For those few moments…our world, The Entire World, was filled with peace, with love. With Light.
This is the image I carry. I hold it close to my heart: my tender, sometimes courageous, sometimes heartbroken heart. When I Remember, when I need it…I call up this image. It is a blessing. It is a medicine. It is a miracle.
Hold it in your heart. Carry it with you. Share it with your loved ones. Share it with strangers. We all are in need of a little miracle now and again.