DARK MOFO and the Winter Solstice

DARK MOFO Hobart 2014

What a lovely little weekend that was.

It was the winter solstice here on Saturday. The shortest day of the year was a sunny one, filled from dusk until dawn with light and brightness.

DorkyDad and I went out to the Winter Feast on Saturday night – a loud and lively celebration of local food. It was the only DARK MOFO event we went to together. DorkyDad had been to listen to poetry and music at the Odeon Theatre last week, and DorkySon and I spent a merry afternoon with our mops at Yin Xiuzhen’s ice sculpture, but Saturday night was special.

It was a night of pork buns and beef cheek tacos, woodfired pizza and sparkling wine. There was pulsing music and joyful dancing, our breath visible in the cold night air. There were acrobats and accordions, a nip of whisky and a long walk home. We watched the last blue beams of Articulated Intersect light up the sky above Hobart.

On Sunday morning I woke up and my pillow smelled of the bonfires we had warmed our hands on.

It is hard to believe it is winter. I am sure it will get worse – there must be some dark, cold days coming soon – but so far it hasn’t dropped below zero. Last week was warm enough for a picnic lunch in the garden.

As we were sitting out on the rug, DorkySon looked thoughtful.

Let’s watch and see if we spot any leaves fall off the tree,” he said.

So we sat, still and quiet for a few minutes. But then it became competitive.

Let’s see who’s the first to spot a leaf falling,” he said.

We continued to sit. But still nothing. He became frustrated. He went up to the tree and shook the trunk hard, trying to force a leaf to fall.

No luck.

Eventually he stood on tiptoes and pulled one off, before dropping it on the ground.

Did you see it?” he asked me. “Did you see that leaf fall?

Yes,” I said. “I did.

Good,” he said. “Then you win. Well done.

He and I have started spending Friday afternoons at the place he calls the parrot park, and we almost always have it to ourselves. How is that possible? The best play equipment in town, right by the beach and two ice cream stores, and yet week after week we are the only ones there. We spend an hour on the slides and swings, we are pirates and explorers, hiding and seeking, then we head out of the park and around the point so DorkySon can potter in the rockpools.

He likes to throw stones in the sea – small ones and big ones – and listen to the different sounds they make. He looks for anemones and crabs, shrieks if a wave splashes a little too close. We watch out for whales, and admire the diving cormorants. When he’s had enough we find a favourite bench to sit on, and I pull out Tupperware tubs of Hobnobs and sliced apple. We share a bottle of water, and make up stories until it is time to go home.

When the cold does come we are prepared for it. On Sunday morning the DorkyBoys spent two long hours stacking firewood in the shed. A full tonne of it, great rough logs of every shape and size. I have never seen my son work so hard – he wouldn’t even wear gloves – hurling big, heavy chunks from one wall to another. Time alone with his Dad seems to be getting more and more important.

DorkySon said this weekend that he likes school even more than he likes funfairs. He is starting to understand numbers and letters in an astonishing way. And he really feels a part of something – when we’re on our way in the mornings he likes to point out other people wearing the same school uniform as him. Even if he doesn’t know their name, he knows they belong to the same place. He’s in the middle of one of his growth spurts, so I hope that uniform makes it to the end of the year. I keep seeing bare inches of wrist and ankle poking out of his sleeves and cuffs, and as he tears around the house there’s always a flash of tummy here and some bum cheek there.

Last night he was exhausted after the wood stacking and two birthday parties that also took place over the weekend. We ended up having a conversation full of tears at bedtime. He wanted to know what would happen if DorkyDad or I die before he does. Couldn’t we all agree to go at the same time? He wanted to know if death hurts or if it’s scary. He wonders why even grown-ups are sad when people die. Can’t God work his magic and send people back from Heaven?

DorkySon needs certainty, and I hate when he asks questions that I can’t provide good enough answers to. It’s so hard to talk about difficult things in an abstract way. We have agreed to try and find a book to read together that will help us understand.

But now, with the solstice past and the days growing longer, we are moving towards spring and new life.

We are moving out of the dark and towards the light.

Now is not a time for sadness.

26 responses

  1. Oh bless im..my kis go to those places sometimes too when really tired and you just want to be able to say of course we will never be apart and of course life will always be rosy. but we know it isn’t. I cant bear to think of my children having to cope with loss as I have found it so hard myself. I have to steelll myself not to cry when they ask questions like this

    • They’re just little people aren’t they – I’m the same when I’m tired, more likely to get upset and less able to keep things in perspective. Gaah! xx

  2. It must be a scary thought for little ones to lose a parent and I can imagine it’s difficult to just brush it off. Luckily, I didn’t have this discussion with Amy yet. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for it x

    • It really must be a scary thought – they can’t imagine themselves as grown-ups so it must be very worrying to wonder who will take care of you. I’m sure you’ll handle the conversation well when it happens xx

  3. It’s a winter thing… it makes us reminisce and reflect. I remember my son getting terribly upset about all the roadkill when he realised that these were animals that had been alive and were now dead. It takes children a while to get used to the idea that there is not as much certainty as we would like, but it’s a long time before we understand just how little we can be sure of in life, doesn’t it.

    • You know, that’s a very good point Heidi – the change of the seasons definitely prompts some deep thinking doesn’t it? And one of the attractions at the festival was the Ferris Wheel of Death, so that will have put it in his head too.

  4. It is strange to think you are experiencing winter while we trying to find out summer, and also the shortest day as we sit in the garden (hopefully) enjoying the longest day…so hard when our kids ask us questions that we can’t respond to with authority, but I am sure finding that book will help. Reading always, always helps us to understand more, and to explain better. xx

  5. I am full of the soft silence of midwinter now – lovely, lovely words conjuring up that moment as the year turns, that breath, that moment of alignment before we tumble on again. I wrote a long time ago about one of my boys and the difficulty of coming to terms with death as a concept, it’s a tough one. xxx

    • I am going to look for that post and see if I can absorb some of your wisdom. I’ve had a good book recommended to me on Facebook by another parent too. xx

  6. I have been thinking of your post lately as we are moving our family of four from Massachusetts to Oregon this summer; I was thinking of starting a blog myself to keep our friends abreast of our new adventures there. Our house has sold, our offer accepted in Eugene, a place that reminds me of my times in Australia and New Zealand (and I’ve been to Hobart too!) and we will be transplanted there by July 29th. I wanted to comment on your son’s noticing that adults are sad when folks die and wondering what it will be like on the ‘other side’. Having suffered a horrific loss in our family when my sister passed four years ago, I have had numerous conversations with my now 8 and 11 yr old girls about death. I try and keep it open ended. We all feel that the act of dying is not a finish – more of a transition to something beyond what our five senses can fathom in this world. There have been too many serendipitous happenings to convince me otherwise. I represent Barefoot Books as one of their many Ambassadors in the UK, America, Canada, NZ and Australia and can point you to one of their books (which was one of their first books published 20 years ago) that may help your son with his questions it is The Mountains of Tibet and is about the subject of reincarnation, by Mordicai Gerstein. I believe that there ought to be more books available to young
    children on this subject and when things settle this year I am endeavoring to write one! Happy summer/winter solstices to us!

    • Thank you for commenting Melissa (and good luck with your move – I think starting a blog is a brilliant idea, and your friends and family would love hearing about how everything goes for you). We are huge fans of Barefoot Books, so I will have to add The Mountains of Tibet to our collection, it sounds like it would be helpful. Happy solstice to you – keep in touch and let me know how the writing goes! x

  7. Beautifully written post as always, love the sound of the solstice celebrations. Questions about death are so hard to answer aren’t they, when my kids bring them up it is pretty much the only time I wish I had a faith so I could weave tales of wondrous afterlifes, instead I am left unable to find words that soften the blow of reality, and just end up using platitudes to make it seem OK. Often I will tell them different stories from different religions of heaven and re-incarnation and tell them that people believe different things, but that i believe you live on in the hearts of those you leave behind you.

    • It sounds like we are similarly minded, Sonya – I’ve explained that different people have different beliefs, and that really everyone has to make their own mind up because we can’t know for sure. Thanks for commenting x

  8. oh utterly beautiful. The words are now stuck in my fingers and I cant get out what I want to say. throwing stones into the sea is one of my favourite pasttimes too.

    And when children talk of death it is heart breaking but it proves DorkySon is thinking and feels secure in the knowledge that he CAN talk about these things.

    Such a beautifully written piece.

  9. DorkySon is such a mature, beautiful and sensitive young man. I love how he pulled the leaf off and said that you won because you saw it. Death is such a difficult subject and am sure you answered all the questions really well.

  10. Pingback: DARK MOFO and the Winter Solstice

  11. Dorky Son is very much like his Mum…. intelligent, sensitive and highly observant. How gorgeous you are with each other. Having those talks about death are so difficult…. the idea of buying a book is a great one. Lovely, lovely post. X

  12. When I hit a fear of death phase, around 7 or 8, I had a worry book my mum gave me, I just used to write my worries in it and it helped. Always and Forever is a great picture book about death. So strange you are at the darkest day and us the lightest, well it isn’t strange, but it is, if you know what I mean!

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