Now the days get longer. The northern darkness has run to its depth and the sun will be coming back.
Whatever the time of year in Ireland I would often stand with my back to a standing stone or settle within some hilltop circle and imagine the ancient Irish gathering for the solstice vigils. I wondered whether they treated the miracle of yearly resurrection with trepidation or with confident pleasure.
There's no way to know for sure, but one of the things that I learned in my scramblings around was that the pagan sites were nearly always in physically striking settings.
Exposed places with views and with drama or beauty -- not places for hiding. I like to think that the stone-setters marveled at the way the world ran along and took pride in their human abilities to see and to mark the patterns.
Lauren and Rob had invited friends over to their place for food and some solstice bonfire. Roast chicken, white bean stew, acorn squash and latkas. Red wine, candles and conversation by the Christmas tree. A vicious wind was freezing the day's slush into an icy gravel, so there was no pagan exultation by the fire. But there was tobogganing and a few wind-whipped fireworks to mark the occasion. Civilization's not so bad on such a night.