Just before Christmas, I joined the Piermont Community garden members in their annual Winter Solstice Bonfire. Every December, the gardeners gather at solstice time before dawn to light a bonfire in celebration of the return of the sun. This was my third time joining them. (Some years it has been too easy to hit “snooze” through it.) I’ve come to look forward to the bonfire and the rituals of the morning. It is the moment when I remember the holidays as they are meant to be; separate from the chaos through which they are distorted. Every year Colleen brings her CD of Native American flute music and throws some sage on the fire. Hot coffee is shared along with stories of past bonfires and speculations about the new year. Items representing things to leave in the past and wishes for the future are placed on the fire. Gardeners are invited to share readings and this is followed by a symbolically cleansing walk around the perimeter of the garden at sunrise.
This year I got a little extra perspective from a reading by Joan Dye Gussow. Joan, a co-founder of the garden, is known as the matriarch of the local food movement. I’ve heard Joan speak about matters related to industrial food production and eating locally. This time she shared her perspective on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Hearing the movement interpreted through the eyes of an octogenarian who lived through the McCarthy era and protests in the 60’s, helped me appreciate the significance of the movement in a larger historical context. It also highlighted the insignificance of the nonsense I allow to distract me on a daily basis. It was just the attitude adjustment I needed for 2012. May the new year bring you such moments of clarity and peace mixed with a ridiculous amount of laughter and joy.