Today in our northern hemisphere we observe the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. On the calendar it’s the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Historians claim that solstice celebrations go back for millennia, back to a time of our most primitive fears and dark superstitions, when the sun or its absence played a major role in forming the basis of many early cultures and religions. Everyone knows, for example, that the monoliths of Stonehenge were supposedly erected to monitor the cycle of the seasons, especially to frame the first rays of an austere winter’s sun.

I won’t actually see the sun this afternoon, dipping as low as it can go, hugging the frozen bare-boned horizon. The sky is a blanket of stratus cloud gloom. Looks like gray granite, and feels just as heavy. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying a collection of Celtic Christmas tunes. The 2-cd case describes the music as a “medley of relaxing and festive melodies.” And it is truly so, featuring harp, violin, guitar, cello and an occasional Irish flute, punctuated by whistles and of course, the bagpipe. The sound is so mellow I could easily sit here next to the fire with a mug full of blended orange cinnamon tea all afternoon. I’ve had enough of Bing’s White Christmas and José’s Feliz Navidad blaring out of the car radio since the day after Thanksgiving. Right now I need simple. I need consolation and assurance that as the sun enters Sagittarius it will begin to climb again, upward towards the promise of yet another spring.

Listening to an instrumenwintersolsticetal version of the centuries old God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I know that if it were sung, I would hear the encouraging lyric “Let nothing you dismay.” I will take that advice to heart today, laying aside my cares and trials that in the big picture really don’t at all affect the mechanics or outcome of the universe. Whether I am here or not, Old Sol, according to astrophysicists in the know, will continue to fuse hydrogen atoms into an unimaginable amount of energy every second, burning bright for another five billion years. I, however, am not very certain about what will even happen to me tomorrow.