Happy Solstice!

I don’t have full-blown SAD but I definitely feel the waning light. Last night, after we celebrated the Solstice (I made a butternut squash tart, we put the candles on the tree, and opened the first of our presents), I climbed into bed at 7:30 and slept for twelve hours straight. I’m also mainlining chocolate. Even in California, winter is something you feel.

In honor of the season here is one of my favorite poems, by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (first in the original Irish and then translated by Paul Muldoon). It’s actually only the first bit of the poem, “Feis,” which is quite raunchy and depends for its symbolism on an understanding of the architecture of Newgrange: the Irish prehistoric monument constructed in such a way that only once a year, at dawn on the winter solstice, does the sunlight fully reach the inner chamber.

Nuair a éiríonn tú ar maidin
is steallann ionam
seinneann ceolta sí na cruinne
istigh im chloigeann.
Taistealaíonn an ga gréine
caol is lom
síos an pasáiste dorcha
is tríd an bpoll

sa bhfardoras
is rianann solas ribe
ar an urlár cré
sa seomra iata
is íochtaraí go léir.
Atann ansan is téann i méid
is i méid go dtí go líontar
le solas órga an t-aireagal go léir.

beidh na hoícheanta níos giorra.
Raghaidh achar gach lae if bhfaid is i bhfaid.

When you rise in the morning
and pour into me
an unearthly music
rings in my ears.
A ray of sunshine comes
slender and spare
down the dark passageway
and through the gap

in the lintel
to trace a light-scroll
on the mud floor
in the nethermost
sealed chamber.
Then it swells
and swells until a golden glow
fills the entire oratory.

From now on
the nights will be getting shorter
and the days longer and longer.

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