4:12 am – the exact moment of Winter Solstice. 3 degrees above zero, I’m outside in the snow, laughing, naked except for shoes. . .

…because no way am I gonna stand on the ice in my bare feet. Every year, greeting the return of the sun naked is my way of starting over, of shedding baggage, of meeting the world and life bare, stark, uncluttered, no disguises, no sham, no pretense – which is what clothes are, what they represent to me. At the same time understanding very well that the sun, the world, the cosmos, not even my neighbors give a shit or even notice. That’s the beauty of it, you see: the futility.

I expected the cold to be painful – it’s never been this close to zero degrees when I’ve done this ceremony in the past. But it’s not painful at all. Perhaps I don’t feel it because I’m too jazzed, too happy to know that at last the days will get start to get longer and there will be more sun, even though the worst of the winter weather is still to come. The short days beat me down every year and I anticipate Winter Solstice, the true beginning of the year, like the coming of a new world – a friend of mine claims that I run on solar panels in the top of my head. So I count the minutes of light gained from now on: one minute by the 23rd, two minutes by the 28th, and by the 31st, the end of the arbitrary calendar year most of us live by, three blessed minutes of sun. If you think three minutes are too insignificant to even notice, perhaps you are right, but to me they are the sip that makes me want to chug-a-lug the goblet.

So I’m celebrating the return. I raise my arms to the brilliant black sky, and stretching as high as I can, I take a deep breath and sing to the crackling stars, as loud as I can

               Here comes the sun!
                 Here comes the sun! 

                    and I say...
                       It's alright!*   

My delight in this ceremony is enhanced by the fact that I am 81 years old this year, and fairly sure that there is no one my age within many many miles who is celebrating the Solstice in precisely this way or anything close it. Perhaps no one of my age anywhere in the world, mostly especially a woman. There is something perverse in my nature that takes delight in knowing that. Even as a child I delighted in defiance, and in shocking people. I’ve never purged that from my psyche, nor even tried to. Now, at 81, I can no longer take the physical chances I used to take, nor the psychic risks either. But in defying stereotypes, in doing what an old woman is not supposed to, I still get off.

I mentioned that I understand the futility of my ritual – I will continue to carry the same old baggage and after 81 years of this I know it. Nevertheless some part of me believes in the efficacy of ceremony, and I’m always trying hard to start over. The ceremony reminds me that regardless of how many times I fail, to give up the effort is to die in spirit if not in body.

*The Beatles

Winter sun