The Sadness of the Solstice ~Ch 2~

(This is the next installment following The Man and The Mirror)

After soaking for hours, he could feel his strength returning. He knew that he would have the energy to make the trek back home. He returned to the sitting room to find a new bowl waiting for him on the side table he had left several hours before. In fact, he could smell it before he could see it.

The ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and apples greeted him as he returned from the spring waters. The muesli was chock-full of apples, blueberries and hazelnuts. On the top was a small dollop of yogurt. He looked around – he was the only one in the sitting room. Was this for him? Who was his benefactor? He decided to change his clothes and if the food remained, he would gladly eat it.

Refreshed from the healing ministrations of the water, the food and the rest before the fire, The Man knew it was time for one last look in The Mirror and then he would leave. Today, the weather was cooler and the hint of frost was in the air. The Mirror reflected that and the room seemed more crisp than it had the day before. The Man walked all the way up to The Mirror with his head down, afraid as always that it would show him for the coward he was. At the last possible moment, he lifted his head and looked. Once again, he saw a man of strength. He saw a man of power and he felt he might be able to move forward and be able to stand, in the face of such great temptation.

His long trek home allowed for much contemplation. He thought over and over of the temptation that he was facing and The Man knew that he would have to stand. The Mirror had given him the ability to find the strength he had within him, to hold fast to what was right.

The winter was long and hard. All of nature seemed to groan under the fury unleashed in snow and ice and wind. Even the oldtimers of Ville D’eau could not remember such a harsh winter.

All about the village was evidence of the depth of the winter. The residents of the village were incredibly gifted artisans, and the cold winter allowed them to practice their skills and gifts. Every home had some form of creativity displayed – whether it was their baking skills or their sewing skills or leather craft or metal work. Each family had some outlet for their creativity that could be practiced during the cold winter months.

The people were grateful for the abundance that the fall harvest had provided them and they took great delight in sharing it with their neighbors. Frequently evenings were taken up with the sounds of music, song and laughter riding on the wind, chasing the snow up the mountain.

Not so for The Man. The depth of winter kept him from being the one place that he longed to be more than any other – with The Mirror. Those that desired his destruction continued to pursue him with greater zeal than before. His evenings were never filled with song or music or laughter. His soul was far too heavy to participate in such activities.

The days were dark and gloomy and their weight laid heavily upon his shoulders. The pressure The Man felt was as tangible as the logs he had to carry in to heat his home. And he felt as though the need to stand against it was as real as the need for heat. He hoped for the strength to withstand all that was coming against him. He hoped that he could be found worthy of the reflection that The Mirror showed him.

The day of Solstice dawned bright and clear. Though the air was cold, the people made great plans to gather together to celebrate. There was great delight in knowing that the longest night of the winter was passing and spring would be coming soon. Especially this winter.

Every Solstice was the same – fasting throughout the day, to make the celebration of the night all the greater. Although the smells emanating from all the kitchens in Ville D’eau were causing stomachs to groan in protest, the people continued to deny themselves food. What better picture of the anticipation for the return of the fullness of spring when one was in the thick of darkness, than denying oneself the pleasure of eating during the day?

All day long the people prepared for their gathering – greeting one another with joy – as they raced from one store to the next. Like the other traditions of the celebration, the greeting was always the same, as well, “There is no night longer than this one, light is sure to follow. Blessed be the Lord!” Even with the ice and snow blowing about them, the delight of the people of Ville D’eau made it seem like spring had arrived already.

If the people had been less taken up with their own revelry, they might have noticed that there was one among them that was not preparing for celebration, but rather mourning.

Penelope, the silent worker of the bath house, a young girl who was left at the bath house, where she had remained ever since. Penelope, the gentle servant of physical needs for those who came to receive strength and ministry at the bath house. Penelope, the quiet – who was weeping and packing rather than preparing to party. Penelope, who was suffering all alone, in her silent world. Penelope the mute.

The parties began around sundown. If the night was the longest of the year, the people wanted to be certain that they had plenty of time to celebrate. The food and the music was excessive. As the night progressed and people were no longer feeling the hunger from the day, the caroling would begin. In the same way others would wander from home to home to sing during the Yule season, the people of Ville D’eau went about singing songs of spring and hope to one another – bolstering one another’s ability to endure through the winter.

As the night progressed, Penelope wandered about the bath house, touching everything. She ran her hands along the stone walls, wishing with all her heart she could sing songs of spring and hope this night – not only because everything within her desired to sing with hope, but also because her heart was so full, she ached to give voice to it. After walking quietly and silently throughout the bath house, she ended before The Mirror. She touched it and before she could even begin to stop them, the tears began to flow. She did nothing but stand and weep for some time.

Looking into the city, a stranger would think that the air was warm and wind a gentle breeze, rather than a roaring, raging, howling winter wind and frigid temperatures. The people were wandering to and fro in town, cheering and waving and greeting one another with smiles and hugs. Food was passed from one home to another, as the guests drifted from one place to another. The longest night was the night of longest fun, as well.

As suddenly as she had appeared, Penelope gathered her things and disappeared. She began to walk the path through the orchards toward the crest of the mountain. She said good bye to no one but the bath house and The Mirror. And no one but the bath house and The Mirror even saw she was leaving.

The sound was heard by everyone in the entire village. It echoed off the mountains and through the orchards. It ricocheted off the walls of the homes and the buildings through out the area. Some heard it as an explosion, some heard it as a loud crack, yet others heard it as a rumble. Only one heard it as it truly was – a heart rending cry that could be emitted only by one who is in such pain that death is the only option. And she couldn’t tell anyone what she heard.

The Mirror – in the longest night of the winter – shattered. Thousands and thousands of shards went spiraling out into that dark night, off the side of the mountain, into the depth of the orchards, into the streams and creeks that would water the land when spring finally returned. Into oblivion. All its beauty, all its glory and majesty – disappeared in the dark – lost to the people.

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