Irisí Solstice Rant: Dec. 21, 2007
In the darkest time of the year, I take comfort in crawling between my flannel sheets, under my down quilt to hibernate for a long winterís nap. To slumber, perchance to dream, determined to sensor dreams of despair and hopelessness. Today is the day our ancient ancestors huddled anxiously around primal fires wondering if the light and warmth in the world was slowly disappearing. But Iím a modern woman and have a calendar to keep me informed of celestial events. These are the darkest days of the year, a time when true warmth comes from the gathering of friends and families. But many seem frantic with the details. My son calls from across the country to share the stresses of Christmas in the real world- gifts wrapped just so, polished silver to match the sparkling china. Itís a far cry from our family soup kitchen celebration in New Mexico with warm socks and sweaters wrapped in the funnies and red chile posole bubbling on the stove.
The Chanukah menorah with its flickering candles has been put away till next year but I hold on to the story about a brave band of revolutionaries, the Macabees, (the critical mass) who defeated the mightiest armies of their time (the military industrial complex) to change a dangerous course. Their fervent belief in religious freedom offered them a victory we still celebrate. But no matter how much energy, love and devotion I offer to Chanukah and the winter solstice, there is still the feeling of being on the outside of the mainstream.
On Christmas eve, I go to the Taos Pueblo to crunch on frozen earth, between huge ember spitting bonfires, searching for familiar faces and follow the procession of the Virgin Mary under her protective canopy. The sound of gunfire exploding around her, frightens children and unsuspecting adults. Itís too much like the sounds of war. If only these explosions ricocheting between the pueblo and the Sangre de Cristo mountains had the power to frighten away evil spirits and make room for the coming light.
Maybe thatís what Iím suppose to do. Make lots of noise to frighten away the dark spirits. When I stop resisting the onslaught of Christmas carols permeating the airwaves, my being relaxes into their peaceful images-- a silent night lit by a myriad of stars blanketing the sleeping town of Bethlehem. But that word triggers the mother of all rants because I know that the people who live in the little town of Bethlehem, on the West Bank of the Jordan River are suffering. A cartoon depicts the three wise men following a shining star, blocked by a towering concrete barrier. If the wise men had not arrived to bear witness in the manger, how would the world have ever known about this miraculous birth?
Last spring, I visited Bethlehem, went through the dehumanizing checkpoint, saw the hideous separation wall snake around the city. Sitting in the courtyard of the Church of the Nativity, we listened to our guide, a Christian Palestinian tell the story of working with the UN to distribute food to terrified, hungry people who where allowed to leave their homes for only two hours to buy buy food in shops that had already run out of food. Others, less lucky, were trapped inside the church. In 2000, Bethlehem was under siege for 40 days.
I visited a refugee camp outside of Bethlehem where I watched Algezira on television, listened to a lecture on Che Guevara, toured the camp, witnessed their poverty and was treated to dinner in a restaurant in Beit Sahour, aka, Shepherdís Field. These young men and woman, born and raised in a refugee camp, still dreamed of living a normal life, perhaps returning to the villages of their grandparents. They were desperately looking for signs of hope from a seemingly indifferent world. In Bethlehem, I met a woman dean of a local college, who dreamed of healing the hopelessness and suffering her community by helping them tell their story through the creative arts- film, writing, painting, ceramics and more. Over and over she said, ďWe are human beings who deserve to liveĒ.
A friend visiting there, emails me about the chokingly long lines at Bethlehemís main checkpoint. The Muslims are trying to visit each other for the feast of Abraham. The email also talks about a major expansion of the Israeli settlement that surrounds the city. The very word Bethlehem means sustenance, for shepherds it would be meat and for farmers, grain. In the darkest time of the year, I remember that my sustenance comes from the many wise men and women who travel with me. Together we create the critical mass ready to rally against all odds, to shed light in the darkest places of the holy land. If one candle can light the darkest night imagine the illumination of many.