Winter Solstice (冬至)

The shortest day, the longest night approaches. And this winter heart feels safe. Not because of safety nets and not because there is no fear, no pain. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I have dwelt in suffering, lived lives in dead valleys where neither flowers bloom nor snow covers all. Deserts of heart, of spirit, of bone. I was bleached clean in those over-warm winters without relief. Aggressive chemical washes across the muscle of my heart. I have scar tissue I will carry forever from those days. Days of youth, days of captivity, days of an unknown me.

I escaped but not to a better place. I went inland to an empire of lost dreams. And there, I felt how it feels to starve. Not because of a lack of resources, but because I craved to know. I had an inability to process need and want; I had lived a life of taking, always on the cusp — but of what? Never knowing what desire was because there always was too much.

I drifted from that into the winter white, clear blue sky of the coldest day closest to the sun. I found refuge in the frozen ground lit by  silver light from a misted over moon. I came to love the stars for what they were — pinpoints of a past I could trust. None of this earth-bound emotional rust around the edges of their nebulous forms. They were far off and for that alone, I loved them.

Sitting, long nights, staring into their light made cracks in me open up, yaw like mouths for food I didn’t have. When I looked down at myself, I found my own shed forms lying in the palms of my waiting hands. I stayed frozen, like that, a long while.

Over 20 years.

And one day thought: if I move from here, it is into known territory, coming back down into old ground. Circling round in different paths, again and again, back to myself.

These days, I come and go. And the past, I remember well because I have my own stars, burning. I sketch the shapes of my routes, plot diagrams of their arches in the sand, make maps of them in my heart. I navigate troubled waters with my finger on their ever-changing names.

You, ghost story, were one of them. A star by which I sailed once. I spent a lifetime on your surface. It was enough to learn. To know starvation and pain. To know regret and how it aches. Endless and strange.

In that wake, I became a winter heart. A lake that turned to solid ice, killing all the inhabitants. In the Spring, I thawed but only found the bones of bodies I’d once loved, no longer covered over. By summer, I watched grasses grow and get cut down. Harvest pulled everything in. I could smell the coming death in it. Come autumn, I moved away; came home. And in winter again, set you free at last. I may go cold again, but the remnant moved away long ago. Only a ghost town to freeze over now. And spirits don’t preserve so well, or so I’ve heard.

There are game-changers in my life now. Star systems, ever changing, that pull the fabric of gravity. A variation of color on black vacuum.

And by their shifting light, I sail onward.

I will learn to let everything go, eventually.

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