Winter Solstice Meditation 2009

Photograph of poplar trees at Newington College, Stanmore, Sydney, through the morning mist

Once more around the cycle. As I did last year, and almost every year, I paused a moment yesterday to mark the Winter Solstice. It is the same, but different. Once more around the cycle…

Rather than a fragile tealight flame, this year I have a robust church candle. Another cold, damp day, but the Solstice is at 3.45pm instead of 9.59am. This time it’s actually raining. A gentle raindrop pattering just manages to drown out the distant noises of city traffic.

Sitting in almost the same spot as a year before — not exactly the same, because the ground is wet and foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds — my awareness is heightened about what’s changed, what’s the same.

Last year, we’d only just emerged from a long drought. This year, everything is greener, more healthy. The poinsettia is still in flower, a bright, deep red, rather than dying petals on the ground. This year, the heavy jets are taking off, not landing. Just as bright, just a shiny, just as loud, but taking off for — literally — new horizons. New possibilities.

As of course am I, and soon.

After another year in the same home, I’ve gotten to know the daily sounds and rhythms. Without turning, I know the roar behind me is not merely a heavy jet taking off, but specifically a Boeing 747. The engines have a distinctive higher-pitched whine mixed with their roar.

And they’re the loudest thing in the sky. Usually.

Some 300 metres away, a rainbow lorikeet darts and skims home. Even though it’s just visible as a silhouette in the distance, and silent, I know it’s a lorikeet from the way its wings move in flight. Similarly, a sulphur-crested cockatoo gliding through the mist to land on the nearby school sportsground is distinguishable from its close cousin the corella, simply by its gestures in flight.

A child’s balloon — electric blue and oh so shiny and bright! — appears from nowhere and scuds over the house just as another 747 — white and oh so shiny and bright! — roars overhead, just as the rain eases off. I’ve always loved watching these heavy craft taking off into the west, especially at dusk. Even in the 21st Century there’s still a sense of wonder about starting a new journey, is there not?

Just as this particular jet banks and turns to choose its outbound path, seemingly at random but in fact chosen according to a pattern which shares the noise of takeoffs amongst everyone living below the flightpath, a bright patch appears in the sky. A little break opens up in the otherwise even grey cloud bank precisely between me and the Sun. And the 747 chooses to break through the clouds precisely in that very spot — spearing the emerging possibilities as accurately as a hunter’s spear.

I check the time.

It is precisely 3.45pm.

Precisely the Solstice.

And then the rain starts again. The break in the cloud closes gently. Another lorikeet, much closer, squawks. Just once. And he’s gone.

Another time around the cycle…