A Glutened Solstice

Because I am a Celiac, I live dangerously every time I eat out at a restaurant. Gluten particles are sticky and cross contamination is a constant threat. So I wasn’t shocked when I had a gluten reaction from an unknown source. Could have been the cheeseburger I ate with my daughter. Even though it was wrapped in lettuce, I doubt the cook changed his gloves when handling my meal.

What did infuriate me was it happened on Solstice, the night I was to join my friends and howl at the moon around a bonfire while waiting for the longest night to end. Instead, I spent the night howling at my toilet bowl, waiting for another long night of stomach pain to end.

Believe me, if I could eat gluten I would. There is no such thing as Gluten Free sour dough bread (sorry, I’ve tried them all and they all suck). I’ve never had a Krispy Cream donut. When I went to Mardi Gras I spent two days throwing up, and not from alcohol poisoning. Of course, no one believed me as I hurled in a gutter on Bourbon Street. “Amateur” someone yelled.

No, just a celiac.

But my husband did his best to make me feel better. After our daughter went to the bed and my diarrhea subsided, we climbed up on the roof and watched the stars gleam in the frozen sky. I sipped a little wine, determined to celebrate because I’m stubborn that way, and talked about what a crazy year it had been. And then later, when I needed to spend more time in the bathroom, he handed me this:

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Suddenly, I felt a lot better.

Happy Solstice everyone!

 

Solstice Bonfire

Bright red sparks shine like stars in the black night, rising up on waves of smoke and heat. A half smile moon looks down on the people dancing and singing around a bonfire. This is a clan of artists, bohemians, hippies, healers, millennials, elders, rich and poor, all stretching eager hands toward the brilliant heat of the bonfire. Let the warmth fill you. The darkness is diminishing.

This is my clan. After a year of sadness, fear and exhaustion, I join this gathering. In the past, I would have known everyone, but today I’m surrounded by strangers I feel I know. We all know the hosts, the dear people I call my Aunt and Uncle, although we’re not related. They are my family simply because they love me and I love them. My uncle in the plaid outfit takes my hand and commands, “Have some fun for a change!” Yes Sir.

My father dances around the bonfire in a flame red coat and crown, dressed as the Sun King. My sister takes my hand and we remember how much we love each other. The night goes on as the fire burns down, but we stay awake, waiting for the first glimpse of sunlight. The longest night will soon be over.

Happy Solstice.

2013: Do you know anyone who didn’t have a difficult year?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a difficult year. Relationships shattered; jobs vanished; housing collapsed;  finances withered. Even health seemed difficult to maintain in 2013. What is it about this year that caused even the toughest amongst us to cry “Uncle!” Just like so many this year, everything in my life cracked. I lost my job, had surgery on my shoulder that didn’t resolve the pain, my daughter was ill, stress quadrupled, and my marriage suffered. At the end of this year, I feel emotionally and physically battered to hell, and I know damn well I’m not alone.

Is there a single person anywhere who doesn’t feel like 2013 was the equivalent of a treck to Mordor?

Why was 2013 so hard? Astrologers blame Mercury. Politicians blame the economy. Conservatives blame the collapse of social norms. Is it the hang-over from the “Great Recession”? The crazy weather? Toxic chemicals in our drinking water? Hormones in our food supply? What is causing so many of us to suffer?

The Winter Solstice is here, and this year it holds more meaning for me than in past years. The darkness feels stronger, literally and figuratively. The days are cold and the nights too long and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and sleep until Spring. Usually, I love the Winter, but this year it feels that it will never end, even though technically Winter hasn’t even started yet. If only the sun would shine warmer, then maybe we could all get past this miserable year and start again. We could go outside and breath in the Winter air and know that the sun’s warmth is closer, the daylight will lengthen, and soon it will be time to plant the garden again.

Feeling completely discouraged, I hung two strands of colorful lights on my house yesterday in honor of Solstice. You can’t light bonfires anymore (at least not in town), so holiday lights are the next best thing. When the sun set I plugged in my lights and instantly my home felt more cheerful. The shadows glowed with red, green, blue and yellow light, and suddenly I felt that although 2013 tried hard, I wasn’t beaten.

I have no idea if 2014 will be a “good” year, or not, and I’ve given up hoping it will be better. I just know that I will still love and fight and dream and cry and eventually find a small bit of peace. I know that I have more to learn and more to do. I know that there will always be struggle, and sometimes the struggle will be more than I can manage.  I’ll lose a few battles, but I will not give up the fight. I know that ultimately I will continue to love and be loved. I know joy will find me when I am saddest.

Time to plug in my holiday lights again. Happy Solstice, dear friends.