Winter Solstice

December 21, 2011

The Winter Solstice is the quietest time of year in the desert.  A deep hush rests on the cool earth, and the pale gold sun warms the air for only a short time at noon.  In lucky years such as this one, this also the time of winter rain.  Of snow on the highest mountains, of water flowing in desert washes and ice rimming secret stone pockets in wooded canyons.  Not everything is dormant at this time, and the rain makes many plants more wakeful.  Young agaves grow larger and tougher, though they will not show new leaves for several months.  Yuccas, desert hackberries, and the evergreen oaks are strengthening their deepest roots.  Cacti swell and store water for April’s flush of new spines.  As befits the time of year, the most mysterious, magical, and spectacular event is completely hidden.  Wrapped in earth’s protective darkness, the seeds of annual wildflowers are  soaking up the water, the tough seedcoats disintegrating and new embryos swelling….and waiting for the new sun.

We stay quiet, too.  We have our own small maze-and-candle rituals, but we are mostly hermits at this time.  Anything else is inappropriate and inauspicious.  When the sun returns and the earth begins to stir a little more, it will be different.  But now we rest, and grateful cats gather around us.

For this week’s Third Quarter Moon, I made this drawing.  It is one of eight pictures in a Stick Oracle that I started a few years ago.  I finished it and decided that two of the pictures didn’t work and needed to be replaced, so I put it aside for awhile.  This drawing of my new oak walking stick is one of the replacements.   Finishing it, and looking at the entire set again, has provided enough inspiration for the other replacement image that I’ve started work on that, too.

Here, two sticks – a saguaro rib topped with a bundle of thorns, and an oak root topped with tangled woody grapevine tendrils – stand in a rocky canyon and mark the place where two tiny streams converge as they sink into the sand.

Stick Oracle - Third Quarter Moon

Stick Oracle - Third Quarter Moon

This antler drawing that I finished several months ago is also appropriate for the Third Quarter Moon before the Winter Solstice.  The left side shows the Carbon Antler Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon, growing on knotty wood.  The right side shows stylized whitetail deer antlers and the top of the deer’s skull, including sutures.  Uniting the two images are the intricately interlocked branches of Pseudevernia consocians, an antler-like lichen that grows on tree branches.  The circle at the top shows the fungus and antler in reverse colors, drawn extremely stylized to resemble hands.  The rim on the left shows the fungus mycelium (network of threads that fills the rotting wood on which it grows) and the rim on the right shows the porous bony pattern of an antler in cross-section.  (Both drawings are on 6″ scratchboard.)

Antler Fungus

Antler Fungus

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2 Responses to “Winter Solstice”

  1. Debra said

    Best wishes for you all in the coming year–I always enjoy your thoughtful comments and the strange, beautiful things you make.

  2. judithornot said

    The Antler Fungus drawing is especially beautiful — Earth and Fire all in one. Happy Winter Solstice, Lorena!

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