Teri Orr: Finding the beauty, and the peace, in the winter solstice. | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: Step softly into the solstice…

Park Record columnist Teri Orr was one of the speakers at Park City's March on Main. Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker
Park Record file photo

The aroma in my bedroom — where there is no fireplace — is smoky. A kind of campfire-ish comforting smell — maybe cedar, or piñon — a hint of sage. I am confused — wondering where the scent is coming from and I realize it is my closet. And then I see them again. My Christmas gift — just days old. A pair of soft buckskin moccasins — thin leather with colored glass beads — hand-stitched. They came from an old dear friend — a medicine man/spiritual leader — of the Ute Tribe. He has been blessing those in need for decades. Before and after his tour in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot — long before he worked with Robert Redford and his film buddies at Sundance Resort — before he was a filmmaker himself.

There are long stretches of time in our relationship when we go without touching base. And then life happens to one or the other and we are in sync again.

My friend showed up last Saturday at my place of work. I didn’t know he was coming off The Rez to town. He brought the moccasins with him. They are as soft and thin as the finest pair of designer gloves. He instructed me to take off my shoes right then and put the mocs on and walk around the space in them. “You need,” he said slowly and deliberately, “to feel the ground underneath you right now. Be in touch with the earth movements. Ground yourself.”

I discovered at once how very thin they are — so there is no way not to feel the earth underneath. These are not outdoor mocs. These are sacred slippers. And part of me is afraid to wear them. Because they are so beautiful I would hate to ruin their fine skins and glass beads. But if I am honest — I may be a bit afraid also to feel the ground that closely. Mother Earth is strong medicine. You must be ready to receive.

This time of year is always confusing — it feels like we are just now headed into the darkest part of winter — when in fact — we are heading toward the light. The solstice requires we respect the shift. The shortest day — the longest night. Watch the slant of light. The full solstice moon this year offers to help move us through the passage. There is messaging there — in the moment of tipping from fall into winter … facing spring. There are mysteries afoot — acts of great balance and some surrender.

That long dark night of the soul-stice…

Pay clear attention to the movement of the animals. The deer and moose and mountain lions all who are so much more prevalent than when I moved here 40 years ago because they did not need to come down from the hills to feed. Those hills have been built upon and forced the animals to find new sources of food. In the winter, my bird feeding becomes even more important — little birds — of course — flutter around but also the deer and moose like the seeds.

When I threw open the door to my yard the other night to head out to a party — I startled the buck in my yard — and he startled me. He was eating the birdseed I had thrown on my walkway. I learned years ago it also works as snow melt. This guy was having his own cocktail hour — finding the sunflowers seeds and nut pieces — in the snow. And for a piece of time no cars passed on my street and no children were at play. The soft light of dusk made the scene otherworldly. My need to rush to a party seemed silly. I stood on the porch and watched him nibble on the seeds. He looked over at me and determined I was no threat and kept on snacking. Finally he lifted his head and nodded — I swear he did — and then leapt away — spring loaded jumps out of my yard.

And just like that — the cars returned to passing on the street — the children could be heard in the cul-de-sac and I headed to the party which I was now late for. I tried to explain the scene when I arrived but the festivities were well underway and the story of a suspended moment in nature sounded out of place in the cacophony of noises in the room. All night long I couldn’t sync with what felt like faux merriment. Everything seemed too loud and bright. I left early with an Irish goodbye. The one where you sneak out the back door quietly and don’t actually say good nightie to anyone.

Once back home I entered my peaceful living room — not yet decorated for the holidays. All the decades of collected boxes of shiny ornaments and overly bright trappings waiting in the garage feel like too much psychic energy to unpack. It is an off year — when my whole little family won’t all be together — other in-laws other places. I just sat in the room for a spell. Quiet.

By now it had become a midnight clear. And the stillness wrapped around me like a quilt of patchwork emotions. Comforting. Mostly.

The winter solstice was celebrated long before the birth of baby Jesus. Longer still before the birth of commercialism. It is a time for reflections and intentions to burn in a yule log — cedar maybe piñon.

This year’s special full moon display — the very same night — is referred to — in some American Indian tribes — as the Long Night Moon.

I will — for the next few nights — slip on my beautiful mocs and feel the medicine beneath me. Not all holiday years are equal. Not all celebrations are grounded in exact vibrations. Some transitions are gentle surrenders.

May your solstice season be filled with some quiet reflective time — where nature not nonsense causes you pause. Grants you some peace. All of the congested days of these holy days — especially this Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.

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