What can we hold on to in times like these?
I was reflecting on our Christmas traditions over the break.
You know, when I was a kid, all the family would get together for Christmas lunch. Then one of the uncles would slip off, and wouldn’t you know it, a few minutes later Santa Claus would come wondering along with lollies for the kiddies.
Keep in mind that this is outback Queensland, and often the thermometer would be giving 40 degrees a nudge. But there’s Santa, in a full-body polyester suit and gum boots!
And then Santa would leave, and the uncle would return, drenched in sweat, and they’d slap him on the back and give him the coldest beer in the esky. He’d certainly earnt it!
Anyway, it’s one of the odd things about growing up in the Southern Hemisphere with a Northern Hemisphere-an cultural background. A lot of our traditions are out-of-sync with the seasons and the cycles of the earth.
Like Santa strutting around in 40 degrees, or frosted snow on the café windows.
And that got me thinking about the original solstice celebrations.
Originally, way back when, they were about the return of the sun.
As the year advanced towards the solstice, the days got shorter and shorter. The sun’s arc was lower and lower in the sky.
If you didn’t know
better, and you extrapolated on those trends, you would have been worried that
maybe the sun wasn’t ever coming back. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was
just a slow and steady march towards a sorry eternal darkness.
What a terrifying prospect.
And so when the sun came back – when the days stopped becoming shorter and the sun’s arc moved higher in the sky – you gave thanks. You gave thanks for the sun and all the corn and maize and life it fathered forth.
But I don’t think the celebration was just about giving thanks. I think it was also a way to mark the seasons and the cycle of the earth into your own memory.
You understand that things move in cycles – that the sun wanes and returns – because you have clear memories of it always being that way. The same way I remember the ridiculous curls in that fake Santa beard.
And I think this lived memory, marked by ritual and celebration – this understanding of the seasons and the cycles and the knowledge that the sun will always return – gives you a lot of comfort. It gives you peace.
That’s a beautiful thing. And for crazy humans in a crazy world, it’s a really important thing.
Now here we are in 2020. And as we move through this horrific bush-fire season, I feel sorry for us. We are moving into uncharted territory. The scale and devastation of the fires is ‘unprecedented’.
I’ve seen, first hand, rural communities laid out on the mat by the drought, now staring down the barrel of a hell-fire inferno.
(Seriously, if you don’t get how tough these country folk are by now, you never will.)
And as tough as they are, they’ve got to be thinking, “Where does it end?”
It will end, won’t it?
And as I said, I feel sorry for us – not just country folk, but all of us. We are all going into this terrifying unknown without anything to hold on to. We hope and pray that it will be ok, but there are no rituals or celebrations that remind us that everything has its time.
That this too will pass.
Our sun is sinking, and there is nothing in our bones that is telling us that it is going to be alright.
This is a tough. It’s a tough time to be alive. It’s a challenging time.
But, I have faith in the human spirit. I know that we will bounce back. We always do.
Somehow, we get through it. All of your ancestors did. You will too.
And so that’s where I’m putting my faith. In us. I’m putting it in that tiny little safe-box we call the human heart.
I believe in people. I believe we can do this.
And I know people in the fire-affected communities are doing it tough right now. I see that. I feel that.
So just know that the rest of the country is standing with you.
We can get through this.
We always do.