The temperature reading was minus 17 with a windchill factor that made it feel like minus 21 when I hauled myself out of a warm, cozy bed at 6:15 this morning to get into a frigid car. It was still dark when I arrived on the southern bank of the Wolastoq/St. John River. That’s where I met up with a group of hardy souls to celebrate the end of the longest night of the year and the return of the light.
About twenty of us encircled the fire. We sang and danced as we greeted the sunrise, a rosy-orange glow that gradually filled the sky. Moon Joyce, who had been there tending the fire since 6:45, led us in song and drummed out the rhythm.
It was a time for fellowship and celebration, a moment to reflect on the things we wished to purge from our lives. It was also a time to contemplate the darkness of this time in history and to gather strength and hope from our connection to Mother Earth.
We were out there in the clear, cold air for about an hour, swaddled in layers of clothing, toques pulled low, hooded parkas and scarves drawn over our faces. Cold is a great equalizer.
Just when I wondered if I would ever feel my toes again, the sun took shape as it rose in the east, peeking over the trees. We sang one more song and headed to the Sunshine Café for hot coffee and breakfast, all of us smelling of woodsmoke. It’s a bit hard to explain, but I felt cleansed. I think we all came away inspired to make our own lights shine more brightly as we journey together on our next turn around the sun.