It's Solstice today. Our biggest celebration of the year. It's a simple, homegrown holiday for our family and we spend the day together making candles and bird feeders; sharing hand-made gifts; hiking or skiing to the woods for a campfire as the sun sets; and walking back in the dark for a dinner of all local food by candle light. It's my favorite day of the year.
So yesterday we were in the final push of preparations. As always, we're more behind than we would like to be and both kids were calling for help with jigsaws and belt sanders; candy thermometers and freezer paper stencils; acrylic paints and persnickety computer printers.
Did I mention that we didn't have a tree yet? Right. That. The day before our celebration. (We're always behind but we've never been quite this far behind before.) Pete was sick so we postponed cutting last week, then I was away, and then it was below zero. (If you cut a tree when it's below zero the branches and needles all shatter and it's not a pretty sight.) So we had to wait for a stretch of warmer days, which pushed us to yesterday, the day before our celebration.
And then our sweet cat – who just hasn't been getting better these past two weeks – took a rapid turn for the worse. We spent half of the day cleaning up things I would rather not discuss all over our kitchen, mudroom, and living room and I felt myself on the verge of tears for so many reasons. The cat, the clean-up, our plans, and Solstice. Overwhelm of every sort.
I called the vet and they squeezed us in.
We managed to cut a tree before our appointment, but the rest of our plans were sidelined. Gifts would wait, decorating would wait, cooking and baking would wait. When we returned from the vet we didn't have more answers but we did have an intensive plan of care for him, syringe feedings every hour until (if) he rebounds. It was heavy and overwhelming.
And so at dinner last night I fell apart. I cried, worried about this sweet cat. I cried, feeling the heaviness of so many things this season. I cried for exhaustion, having woken at 3 AM, unable to sleep, worried about All The Things.
I say this not for sympathy, just for perspective. Everyone falls apart now and then. At least I hope you do. (It's like I tell my kids: tears are medicine if you let them out but poison if you hold the in.)
And then something beautiful happened.
My family encircled me. Sage made me a cup of my favorite herbal tea. Lupine gathered tinctures and remedies. Pete drew me a bath and lit candles. I exhaled. I felt held and safe and understood. A friend emailed and another friend texted, checking in.
More love, more compassion, more empathy.
And as I crawled into bed early last night, I realized – these were the gifts that I needed. Not something from the wood shop or craft cabinet or big box store, but this. Love, caring, compassion, connection.
This is what giving truly means.
It it means everything.
So before you hand a paper wrapped present to someone this season, make a tiny bit of space to reach out and encircle someone with love who needs it. Your partner, your parent, your child, or a friend. A stranger in crisis, a people in crisis, anyone. Because gifts of compassion and love mean so much more than gifts of things. And I will give both.
May you give and receive with open hearts, my friends. This season, this year, and always. Happy Solstice, dear ones. You are loved.