Life & Arts Opinion

Welcoming the winter solstice

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Welcoming the winter solstice was a ritual for Bazza — a time to contemplate life within the sound of silence, writes John Longhurst.

THE CHILL ON the headland ignored Bazza’s attempts at tightening his collar as he cradled the warmth of his coffee in the predawn blackness.

He distracted the cold by repeating key lines he could remember from Paul Simon’s song 'The Sound of Silence'.

It lulled his solitude: 

"Hello, darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again..."

A wry smile accompanied his memory of The Sound of Silence being appreciated at full blast in his youth.

Bazza had decided to brave the predawn for the winter solstice by himself on the south coast headland.

Welcoming the winter solstice was a ritual Bazza had fallen into as a young man. Back then, it was all about defeating winter and hastening the onset of summer.

In his youth, summer was worshipped and to be extended at every possible opportunity. He was carefree and, many times, stupid. The ultimate surrender of day to night was resented but ironically celebrated at its peak by whatever ritual or celebration was in vogue. A nude swim in Tasmania one year or an all-night party in Bondi another. Always friends, lots of friends. A need to be surrounded by people.

He sipped his coffee; its warmth reassuring.

In the intervening decades such frivolity was abandoned in the pursuit of the busyness of life. Always busy… very, very busy. The longest night rejoiced only for a longer sleep. Summer, autumn, winter and spring became cards in the rapid-fire game of winning in life and had gobbled up the years. A blur of busyness and a shredding of friendships. 

He rotated his cup for the remaining warmth.

Bazza squinted across the ocean at that proverbial darkness before dawn. The sea and sky merged in an inky calignosity and an archipelago of black clouds duped his eyes. He measured his loneliness and fallibility against a vast ocean, with its rhythmic heartbeat of gently crashing waves. The loneliness he detested as a young man was now somewhat soothing.

The coffee cup was cold. He shifted feet and thoughts.

Bazza strained his eyes into the inky blackness and slightly shook at the thought he was the furthest he could be from the sun, an umbilical cord stretched to the maximum.

He contemplated frailty and vulnerability within this sound of silence and this deepest darkness. He thought of the community behind him and communities beyond.

How presumptuous to think all our human goings-on could be played out… under the belief the sun would rise.

"Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again..."

John Longhurst is a former industrial advocate and political adviser. He currently works as an English and History teacher on the South Coast of NSW.

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