News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Solstice walkers to gather on darkest day

Since ancient times, people have gathered together when the day is darkest and the night is longest. They often light fires or candles to symbolize the return of the sun on winter solstice. Around these parts, solstice is marked by walking the Sisters Community Labyrinth.

After skipping a year due to COVID-19, this year the walk takes place on Tuesday, December 21. Participants are invited to contemplate the theme “Honoring Our Losses,” as they gather together for a brief chat, then enter the labyrinth in silence, moving through its many twists and turns.

Mandee Seeley, an advocate for the houseless, will walk specifically in honor of people who have died while unhoused in Sisters Country (see related story,

page 23).

A solstice walk is a relaxed, open-ended tradition.

“I love being able to get together with people and have a ritual that honors the change of the seasons in a nondenominational way,” said Susan Prince, a nature educator and environmental advocate who often leads proceedings at the labyrinth. “That’s really special

to me.”

The theme is new for the committee that runs Sisters Community Labyrinth.

“Contemplating losses and rather than letting the grief overwhelm us, letting it motivate us to improve the future,” is how committee member Pat Leiser

envisions it.

“Gosh, this has been such a hard couple of years for people, and we don’t even know if it’s over,” said Prince. “There’s a lot to grieve and a lot of uncertainty. There’s something special about being able to walk with that, with other people. I think it’s going to be a really good experience. “Instead of just sitting at home and worrying about the whole thing, which we’re all tired of doing,” Prince added, laughing.

And, she said, “I think it’s really special that we can include the houseless people in the ritual this year. They’re part of our community.”

During some labyrinth walks, people make their way to the large boulder in the labyrinth’s center. There they gather for talk, ceremony, or celebration.

This time, the plan is different. There will be a short gathering before the labyrinth walk begins, when participants are invited to talk and listen. After that, the entire walk will be held in silence, with no center gathering except to warm one’s hands at a small

fire.

Leiser enjoys studying the movements of the planets and the many ways that cultures around the world engage with the skies.

“Northern Europeans traditionally noted this day, the solstice, as one of the sun’s marks of four periods of the year,” she explained. “Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. They also marked the cross-quarter days, which for them were the beginnings of each season. That meant that what we consider Halloween was the time, for them, when winter began. Spring began on February 2nd, which we can call Candlemas or Groundhog Day. That’s when the trees, somewhere, came into bloom.

“Winter solstice is when the day is darkest and the night is longest,” Leiser concluded.

 

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