This year’s solstice was amazing! I watched the first sunrise of the new solar year over the ocean!
This was something I had been wanting to do for years but it never happened for lots of reasons, like money, other people’s interest level, and my own motivation to make it happen. This year, however, I wanted it bad enough to declare that I was doing it even if I had to drive up by myself and sleep in my car. Someone who cares about me paid for everything as a Yule gift, because even though I’m working I’m not in a good financial place yet.
I had to work Thursday, December 21st until 7 pm, which was several hours after sunset. That presented a little bit of a problem, but I was able to take a short break around 5:30 pm (thank the Kitty Goddess for work at home jobs!) to light last year on fire in my ritual area. I lit a yellow candle with the last of the sparks of 2017.
As soon as work was done I gathered my things, made the candle as safe as possible in the car and started the 5-hour drive to the coast.
It was a long drive. We talked as much as we could, we listened to some of Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”. The first few hours were ok, but on the dark, empty country roads around 1 a.m, the night started to feel pretty creepy. We were definitely in the slasher movie zone. That neon red smiling “Piggly Wiggly” sign is not a friendly sight on Darkest Night in “I don’t remember where” South Carolina.
Once back on the highway everything took on a real dreamlike feel, good thing I wasn’t the one driving. Thankfully we made it to the hotel around 2 am. As soon as I opened the car door I could hear the ocean, but not see it. The air felt more humid and smelled of the sea. The plan had been to set up most things in the hotel room and only go down to the beach for the sunrise. Oddly enough, no one was in the lobby, so we couldn’t check into our room. Plans change.
We took ourselves and the magical sun holding candle to waffle house for about an hour. I ate hash browns covered in cheese and sang pop songs, maybe this should be a new dark night tradition. After that we drove around the old fancy parts of Charlson, the only car around, looking at the gaslights, French accents and the tastefully extravagant Christmas decorations on the ridiculously expensive mansions.
Around 4 am we went back to the beach, parked in the garage under the hotel we were booked at, the only one on Island of Palms. I changed into my ritual dress in the parking garage, got all the ritual supplies, mixed rum with a nice wassel from Trader Joe’s and made it to the beach a little before 5 am. Which was barely on time surprisingly, given that sunrise was at 7:18 am. The sky was totally dark to the east as I started to set up, but within minutes of getting there, I could see it lightning to grays and pinks.
I did most of the same general ritual steps I would use at home, but this was very different from previous years. My normal Yule crew of the last 7 years or so wasn’t with me for one. Erik, who normally does a runic divination for us and runs the bloat, which is the “boast, oath and toast” part had moved to Massachusetts last spring,
So this year I read the tarot cards instead, just for me. It was a quick reading and I didn’t get much out of it, but maybe I need to take some time to explore the reading further. Lori wasn’t there because she was celebrating her anniversary of her secret wedding. The other person who had been there for every Yule for the last 10 years isn’t part of my world anymore. It didn’t make sense to invite anyone else this year.
It was just me and someone who is new to my life as of about 10 months ago, and who had never done Yule or maybe any pagan ritual. Mostly he watched and took amazing pictures, but he joined in some.
We did boasts. I’m proud of myself for how I managed to deal with the extremely bad injury that I suffered in March, damaging 3 tendons in my left leg and breaking two bones. My friends were there for me and helped where they could, but mostly I did it on my own. I learned to live alone, sleep alone, do my grocery shopping alone and function as an independent adult while in a wheelchair and on crutches. It was maybe the hardest, most badass thing I have ever done. I’m down to just a brace now when I go out and I can deal with the pain.
We did oaths. Going from running three times a week to being unable to even walk without assistance, plus the depression that I have been dealing with has meant I’ve gained almost 20 lbs in 9 months. That is not good for my recovery, the extra weight is hard on my tendons. And it’s not good for me emotionally. I started losing the weight for a bad reason, to deal with an emotional trauma, but by the time I was running it was about me. About being strong, about owning my body, about pushing myself. I’m probably never going to run again unless I’m being chased by something that wants to eat me, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up being strong, fit and happy in my body. My oath was to get back down to the weight I was the day I broke my leg, 154 lbs.
We did toasts. I toasted my companion. 10 months ago we were strangers. Two weeks after our first date I broke my leg. He has gotten to know me at probably the lowest point in my life, and yet he had been the most amazing friend I could ask for. He has seen me at my very worst and chooses to stay. It’s been an emotionally awakening to be around someone that good.
We drank, at each phase. And maybe I drank between phases.
As the sky turned pink, I wrote down things I wanted to give up on tissue paper and watched them burn before hitting the sand. Drank a little for the passing of each of those.
I was silly excited as the sky lightened to almost daylight brightness but the clock said we were still 10 minutes from sunrise.
I was holding my breath, staring at the lighted area when in the time it takes to blink, the sun was reborn. Seeing that tiny, beautiful dark orange, burning sliver of life peeking over the water brought tears to my eyes, and not just because I dumb enough to stare at the sun. That moment felt exactly the way I had imagine it would for all of these years. The stress of planning it, the mad dash after work, the drive, the cold, the pain of my leg walking up to the beach, it was all worth it. Maybe everything else was too, everything that finally brought me to this place, on this morning, for this miraculous moment.
I always joke about protecting the spark on the darkest night and bringing it back like to my friends on Facebook, and they said thank you. This year’s was the same in that regard. What was different was a stranger who was staying in the hotel saw what I was doing and came down at the end and told me it made her happy. I have always felt like I’m doing something, connecting to something on Yule night. I know, of course, I don’t bring back the sun, but pretending I do gives me a nice easy goal to accomplish every year because I know that the sun will rise with or without me, that the earth turns whether I’m alive on it or not. This last year, there were so many times when I almost wasn’t anymore. There were so many moments when I didn’t want to feel any more pain when things were just too fucking hard. There were so many days when I was just too damaged, hurting too much and so very alone. There were so many days when I thought the darkness was going to last forever, but even the longest night has a dawn. I’m so glad I got to see this one.
I lit three candles repenting virtues I want to focus on this year. We did “maybe you never hunger” eating the cookies I made and sacrificing others. We did “may you never thirst” drinking some more spicy, applish rum drink and pour some out for lots of reasons. I sat in the new light, unfiltered by houses, trees, other people and started my new planner for 2018. I swam in the ocean in late December and worked on my tan.
I felt happy, productive and a little tipsy. I get a lot done before lunchtime some days. Which was a fabulous place btw, but restaurant reviews are a different post.
I made sure that the sun was reborn this year. A bright, beautiful one. Hopefully a good one. You’re welcome. Most of these photos were taken by and belong to P. Travis.