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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Winter Solstice - ADVENTure Ahead!

By Beth
They say that spring will come again
No one knows exactly when.
Still the sun’s a long lost friend
On the longest night of the year.

We stare into the firelight
While December beats outside
Where the darkest hearts reside
On the longest night of the year

So keep me safe and hold me tight
Let the candle burn all night
Tomorrow welcome back the night
It was longest night of the year

I used to think the world was small
Bright and shining like a ball
Seems I don’t know much at all
On the longest night of the year

We press our faces to the glass
And see our little lives go past
Wave to shadows that we cast
On the longest night of the year

So keep me safe and hold me tight,
Let the candle burn all night,
Tomorrow welcome back the light.
‘Twas the longest night of the year

Make a vow when Solstice comes:
To find the Light in everyone
Keep the faith and bang the drum
On the longest night of the year

The longest night of the year – Mary Chapin Carpenter
This moment marks Midwinter or the day known as the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, the time when the earth moves farthest away from the sun . You can imagine in times past as the days got longer and colder and darker, the fear that our ancestors must have felt, wondering if the warmth and light would ever return and when it finally did, the joy with which it would have been greeted . Centuries later we still have reason to be thankful as the earth begins her long trek back towards the suns warmth and the eventual greening of Spring.

Every year to celebrate the wintry Solstice eve, my sister Ellen and I throw a raucous gathering at her lovely home , a 19th century log cabin nestled deep in a beautiful forest womb. The Echo Glen sits atop a very high ravine and far below it the Chagrin River cuts a deep swath through the ancient native lands. Many Solstice evenings ago when my son and nephew were very small I used to take them out into the glen to look for owls at midnight. We’d wander through the woods and see deer as well as the occasional fox or raccoon. I wish that I could bring you those wonderful smells, pennyroyal mint crushed underfoot and the snow drenched pine mingled with hot chocolate and the sweet smell of excited children who have been reveling in sugar cookies and gingerbread. Suddenly, the three of us would be taken by surprise by a great whoosh of wings overhead, sudden and unearthly quiet. Tor those of you who may never have seen one in the wild, the owl is a silent flyer who is usually only seen when he’s passing swiftly by. We’d stand very still, huddled warmly together and we’d wait for the hoots to begin! In those shared moments, I learned that magic is truly possible when allowed to bubble away happily in the cauldron of your heart. We three had so much fun stalking the wild things ever so quietly under the midwinter moonlight and trimming the trees with homemade pinecone ornaments of seed and peanut butter for the winter birds!

Alex and Michael are grown and we now celebrate Solstice eve with a marvelous party, filling the old century home with our friends and a feast , featuring a groaning board of casseroles and salads, fresh cheeses, roasts and hams and homemade desserts. Huge pots of soup simmer on the stove and I make spicy bourbon soaked eggnog covered with clouds of freshly whipped cream! Out will come the guitars and the drums and the fragrant bayberry and beeswax tapers are lit , infused with all of our intentions for a abundant year. The kitchen in my sisters home is rustic and beautiful, with a huge maple table in the center and a glorious hearth that spans almost the entire length of the space. As I lay the fire in the simple brick hearth Ellen unwraps the last bit of the Yule log that she’s saved from the year before and we all touch it , making our wishes for the coming New Year . We then put it in the center of the fire , light the kindling and lift our glasses, hugs and kisses and shared memories all around. Our guests stay for hours cocooned in this beautiful space and just enjoying the magic of being together once again. Many we only see this time of year, but it is always as if we’d never parted and although there are those dear to us who have passed beyond the veils of this present life they make themselves known on this most magical of nights. Many times during our party last year I could sense my mother, whose laughter was present all evening along with the sweet fragrance of her Shalimar perfume.

There’s so much to do and as I write this, my sister , Michael and his darling girlfriend Molly are dipping homemade cookies and dried fruits in dark chocolate and the fragrant cinnamon and applesauce Christmas tree ornaments that I’m baking in my kitchen smell incredible. On my counters dried fruits, fresh citrus and cinnamon sticks macerating in large jars filled with spiced rum and crystallized ginger are waiting patiently to be made into presents and fancy cocktails! Tomorrow I will make pomanders of fresh oranges and clove to tie with ribbons and hang from the tree and clove studded lady apples to simmer in apple cider, red wine and ale for a traditional wassail bowl. My dog Gabriel is sleeping quietly in the corner by the warm stove and my cats are curled up by the fire with not a care in the world and totally stoned on fresh catnip sent by a friend . I’m filled with the peace of another year gone by, sitting here watching the snow falling softly outside my kitchen window with Loreena McKennit ‘s “Midwinters Night Dream “playing on the stereo. Life is very very good and I am most grateful for it all . ( and right now I’m especially grateful for the vintage bottle of Carons lovely Nuit de Noel that’s coming my way way soon! Thank you Donna!)

I wish all of you a warm and cheery Solstice, a very Merry Christmas and a bountiful New Year filled with love, peace , joy ,marvelous perfumes and everything else that you could desire and more. I feel so blessed to have all of you in my life. Thank you for reading my words and letting me know that they’ve touched you. It means everything to me.

I am so thankful to Roxana Villa and her darling husband Gregory Spalenka for inviting me into their utterly fabulous world and making this incredibly vibrant Advent calendar possible. Please enjoy all of the other wonderful entries.

And finally, to our darling Marina without whom this wonderful place called Perfume Smellin Things simply wouldn’t be....I feel so blessed and incredibly honored that you have given my words a place to call home. Thank you for it all.

See you all next year!



Blogger Illuminated Perfume said...

Beth, your celebration sounds so grand and festive. Wishing you and your family a very bright and luminous gathering. I look forward to seeing you in the new year, cheers!

1:25 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

That does it, I am spending the holidays with YOU from now on! What a wonderful way to celebrate the Solstice and the return of the light! I close my eyes and I feel the warmth of your family and festivities reaching all the way to the West Coast and my own heart.

I echo your remarks about Roxana and Marina most heartily - we are indeed blessed!


2:31 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Ooooooh, I feel THERE with you...
what a gooood feeling that is, dear lady.

SO agreed re: the Villa /Spalenka tribe and Miss Marina ;-)

The happiest celebrations we've had, were the solstice parties we've given.
[I wish we had the woods, like you !]

27 years ago today-
2 days after B and I met-

I gathered 34 friends into 3 rooms-
And fed them all.
Sanitation folk, opera singers, neurosurgeons, artists,neighbors.

Vats of hot spiced kir, mulled wine, on the stove.
Cheeses, olives, fruits, nuts.
Flans, tarts, cakes, desserts, main courses.
Back-to-back, and belly-to-belly

Surely we are related.

What a gorgeous post.

Ilove you.

9:25 AM EST  
Blogger Mals86 said...

Another lovely post, Beth. Thank you.

I rarely wear Shalimar - I prefer the Eau Legere - but today I have on a dot of some vintage pdt. It's beautiful.

We'll be making orange-clove pomanders at my house tomorrow, too.

10:45 AM EST  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Ahh...Beth you always leave me warm and inspired by your magical way with words. I love everything about the way you celebrate life and I am blessed to have made your acquaintance. Please keep writing more and more so that I may continually slip away into the magic places that you create! Much love and light to you and to the other beautiful women who have participated in the Advent circle. Namaste!

11:25 AM EST  
Blogger Bethane said...

Dearest B.,

We're all blessed with the gifts Mother Nature provides. 'Tis truly "The most wonderful time of the year". Thanks for continuing to share your love and yourself in only ways you can!

Happy Merry and Brightest Blessings,


11:31 AM EST  
Anonymous mocards said...

This was a beautifully written and magical post as are all of yours. Thank you so much for sharing your Winter Solstice celebration.

1:27 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

You have a *very* lucky son! What a magical childhood! Each time I read your posts I'm reminded of the miraculous power of beauty in all its forms and feel reconnected w/ a sense of wonder, enchantment and awe - a truly great gift you've given us. Thank you!

4:36 PM EST  
Anonymous Mimi said...


I always enjoy your posts here so much, and this, as usual, is a wonderfully sensual evocation of time and place.

I can't help thinking how lucky those who enter your orbit are - this sounds so magical and reassuring in the depths of a very cruel winter.

Happy solstice to you!

10:15 AM EST  

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