After The Storm

by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 22, 2020

Last night, when lots of other people were looking at Jupiter and Saturn following the sun down below the horizon, the wind was blowing rain here, and the sky was covered with massive cloud formations in another of a set of wild coastal storms we’ve had this week. But later at night, around 10:30, the rain stopped and the clouds began to break up. When I went to let Cotton out, I noticed the sky had lightened  somewhat and from the cast of it thought it might be the moon breaking through, but I couldn’t see it from my own vantage point. Still, I welcomed that eery blue light coming and then darkening. I settled into the peace of the darkness.

This morning, I had the pleasure of an impromptu socially distanced 3 way visit with two of my neighbors who are also dear friends. We happened to come together right in front of my house as Cotton and I were returning home from our morning walk. We were all grateful to be out in a morning where we could see some blue sky. My neighbor across the street said that her daughter had taken a really cool picture of the sky over my house last night, which is the photo you see above. When I look at it very closely I see the largest point of light is most likely the crescent/half moon beginning to set to the west, mostly covered up with dissipating storm clouds but backlighting the clouds below it in that ghostly magical tone of blue.

It’s a rare gift to see where you actually are from a perspective you can’t have from where you are. I have stood on the north side of my driveway and seen my house lit up inside with the moon over the roof in a different position and time of year, but at Winter’s beginning it’s hard for me to see it at all from the usual places.

I treasure this photo. I see it as a profound blessing from this most holy night of the year for me. Last night I was filled with memories of how I’ve honored it over the years, usually with others. One year at my house on Asbury Street a handful of women came at sundown. We sat in silence holding unlit candles as the sun set and the room became completely dark. Then a match was lit in the dark. First one of us lit her candle and spoke, then lit the candle of the next woman, all around our circle until all the candles were lit. Then we lit the fire in the masonry stove.

One year I had a potluck after a ceremony and when everyone left I walked through the town in the snow. Another year my boyfriend drilled three holes in a special log for white, red, and black candles–maiden, mother, and crone–and I let them burn down through the night. Another season I remember hooking arms and singing songs down the middle of the street with one of my long time Moscow besties. Even when I was growing up and steeped in the conventional Christmas holiday traditions, I loved to bake and bought a set of clay cookie stampers at a Scandinavian store that had sun wheels and other symbols of Solstice and thereafter I made those cookies on that day. I always had an innate sense of the holiness of the day even when I didn’t know it’s significance. It seemed like the magical gateway to all the festivities of the 12 days of Christmas–and now of course I know it literally is.

Last night I was perfectly content to have a quiet night sitting with all these memories and welcoming the inward time of dreaming and gestating, nurturing the incipient return of the light with my willingness to sit in the vastness of the mystery without an answer. Recently I read this beautiful interactive piece called “How We Survive The Winter,” and it seemed to speak right to my Winter welcoming soul. As I did, the wordless realization dawned that my soul wished to be born in Winter because I came to hear the stories we tell that keep the faith in the return of the light. I came for those quiet moments of listening, those moments about how things turn around just when we’re about to give up.

It’s priceless to have a photo of what my house (with me and Cotton inside it) looked like getting blessed by the sky above it on the longest night of the year. Even when we can’t gather, my neighbors were able to share the night with me in this beautiful way. It renews my trust in the darkness as a time of rich potential.

I know my posts always emphasize these moments of epiphany or illumination. That isn’t because I don’t find life challenging or a struggle. It’s because I do. Being a child of Winter born with a disability it’s a given for me that some things in my life, lots of physical things, have been hard or take the cultivation a lot of patience, deliberateness and time–also not easy. It continues to astound me even in this later part of my life that the kind of richness I am trying to describe here is available right alongside these difficulties. Or maybe I am thankful when such richness blesses me precisely because of those difficulties. The Vatican astronomer quoted in “How We Survive The Winter” as one of the many voices from around the world about the power of this time of year says the stars are more beautiful in Winter. I smiled a smile of recognition when I read that. I couldn’t agree more.

Happy Holidays, Dearest Readers. Here’s to the return of the light, and the darkness that allows us to recognize it.


Maria (moonwatcher)


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marge Evans December 23, 2020 at 8:42 am

what lovely memories!


2 Denee December 23, 2020 at 11:32 am

Thank you, I love the truths here and the sense of perspective. I don’t know how I missed that lovely solstice piece in the NYT, thanks for linking to it.

Have you read Katherine May’s new book, Wintering? I listened to it recently and highly recommend it.



3 Laura December 24, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Thank you so much for sharing. Stay well and take care…


4 Donna Betts January 11, 2021 at 2:43 pm

You always touch my deepest sense of belonging to the natural world. Thank you — I am so happy I discovered your blog a few years back. Sending love and peace to you , donna Betts
P.S. May you always be blessed with your special creativity


5 Maria Theresa Maggi January 11, 2021 at 4:10 pm

A heartfelt thanks, Donna!I so appreciate you! xo


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