Winter Solstice


“It’s time.” Carla whispered to Alice, waking her from a sound sleep.

Alice’s eyes popped open. She looked around the large room lit by the light of the full moon coming in through the skylights and many windows. Everyone was stirring as word was spread. She smiled as she looked into Carla’s sparkling brown eyes. “Thank you, sweetie.” Her hand darted to the back of Carla’s neck and pulled her close. Smiling at the shock on her friends face, she angled her kiss at the last moment and pressed her lips to Carla’s cheek. She loved teasing her apprentice. “Time to get our dancing shoes on,” she sang to the room.

Sitting up from their sleeping firs, several women tilted their heads to the ceiling and let loose high pitched, wavering ululations. Joy spread through the room when Janice called out. “The earth spins, the first sunrise of the new year is but an hour away.” She patted the computer monitor that connected this original outpost to the rest of the world.

“A new year, a new chance to bring peace to the world.” Alice said, her heart full of hope.

Floor length fur capes were clasp about bare shoulders, soft knee high moccasins were laced up. Silver bracelets jingled as they were put on wrists. Tiny silver bells on leather bands were wrapped below knees.

“Fires are being built up,” Charlene called from the window. “Year end is near, days will lengthen, frozen ground will thaw.”

“Gather round wild women.” Penny held a bag made of soft rabbit skin, her copper hair catching the candle light like electric fire. Each woman dropped a silver coin that had been collected on their travels. Travels that gave them a year to circle the globe, learning as they went. When all had placed a coin, Penny shook it thrice. Smiling, she spun in a slow circle meeting the eyes of this year’s candidates. The youngest was twenty-five, the oldest, fifty-two. All were mothers, a few grandmothers. All knew the price paid for freedom, for peace.

She upended the bag, coins spilled out onto the floor where three concentric circles were drawn on the wooden planks. She stepped back so the moonlight illuminated the inner most. She clapped her hands. “We have nine! Nine to invite the sun back into our lives.”

As the dancers collected their coins, the nine chosen formed a line and bowed their heads for the silver bands they would wear. Silver bells hung from their ears.

“The heart of the earth beats,” Nickie whispered in the silence.

A soft, barely heard throb began, coming from Janice standing before the door. She would lead the dancers to the fire that drew the sun back to warm the world. Her Borodin sounded again and was answered from the deeper darkness outside. A deep thunder rolled through the night and called the dancers to bring the sun back. Even the earth was tired of the cold and dark. The doors opened and winter’s cold rushed in. Slow steps matched the beat that led them out into the frosty moonlight. The cabin of waiting stood deep in the old pine forest, used only at the changing of the seasons. They moved in step with the earth’s heartbeat toward the firelight that shown through the trees. Pine needles covered in hoarfrost sparkled in the moonlight.

The coins that chose the dancers were hung on the ancient pine trees as they passed. Moonlight caught and sparkled on coins placed by many generations of wild women dancers. Tiny sparks of moonlight caught on the ancient coins atop the hundred foot trees, reminding all of the many generations that had passed bringing peace and freedom to the world.

The deep pulse of a far off horn droned, calling the darkness to remain, seeking to drown the soft ting of the silver bells worn by the dancers.

The nine dancers spread out around the fire. The rest of the wild women remained in the shadows and brought silver pipes from their robes. A single high pitched note rose above the crackling of the flames, clear in the cold darkness, calling to the sun. The sweetness of the note promised warmth, the return of light and hope to a world weary of darkness.

The heavy drone of the old year sounded from the night surrounding them and sought to cover the note.

A second pipe sounded from the far side of the circle. It was joined by a third to the left, a fourth came from the right, boxing the directions; east, west, north, south.

The lone voice of one of last year’s dancers sang, calling to the sun. Her voice rang out, singing sweetly to the sun, asking for a return of light and warmth. A fifth and sixth pipe sounded. Two more voices joined the first, appealing to the sun to return. Nine pipes sounded their single notes. Four more voices matched them, echoing in the cold, dark forest. Then nine voices sang against the darkness, against the cold.

The drone from the horn wavered in the darkness, weakening as the year drew to an end.

A log bearing a single branch with frost covered pine needles was thrown into the center of the fire. This was the last wood added to the old year’s fire. Sparks flared and climbed upward in a wide swath, swirling as they ascended the heated air. Nine voices called. The bodhrán thumped, a second drum picked up the slow beat. Nine pipes called their single note.

It was time.

Fur robes were loosened and fell to the snow covered ground as the nine stepped into the dancing circle surrounding the fire. The nine voices of this year’s dancers called, silencing the drone from the dark. The thump of a lone bodhrán began, moccasin clad feet stomped. Two bodhráns thumped, answered by a second stomp. Voices called, pipes answered, dancers stomped the snow as heat from the fire spread outward. The frozen ground began to warm.

A single ululation called from the darkness surrounding the fire, a grandmother who’s voice held the same clarity as when she was a maid. The nine dancers faced east, arms raised as the edge of the sky lightened. A few stars disappeared. The beat of the bodhrán quickened. Pipes joined from the edge of the dancer’s circle, the changing notes flowing around the dancers. Turning toward the flames, the dancers stomped once, moved to the left, stomped again. Arms were raised, hands grasped an invisible rope and pulled the light toward the fire, toward the promise of warmth.

The promise of rebirth.

Facing the east once again, nine voices called. Their arms raised and pulled again toward the fire. The throb deepened. The dancers stomped and faced the flames. A second log was thrown on, the first of the new year. As the sparks rushed upwards the beat increased.

They stomped toward the left then back toward the flames. The first thin slice of the sun’s disk appeared. Their arms raised, they sang to the first sunlight that bathed their upraised hands. The beat increased, they stomped to the left, to the flames, then back to the east. They stomped, the circle moved, always to the left, pulling the sun above the horizon.

Half the new year’s sun cleared the far hills and bathed their bodies as the beat of the bodhráns matched the beat of the dancer’s hearts. Their voices rang with joy as they welcomed the sun.

When the sun cleared the horizon, the dance changed. First one, then another dancer leapt the dwindling fire. They spun and laughed as they moved, always to the left. Soon, all the wild women spun, leapt and sang with joy around the circle. Some moved slower with the stiffness of age but the memory of youth, some were slowed by the child that grew within their bodies. A full five hundred wild women from all over the world were here. Five, one each from the battle torn territories had flown their fastest jets and would return before the sun set.

All sang for the passing of the year, for the memory of those no longer among them. They danced for the beginning, for life. For the chance of peace in the new year.

For freedom. For freedom won by generations of wild women. Wild women who welcomed the coming year. Wild women who raged against the darkness that sought to take freedom from all. Freedom won by words, by blood, by light brought into dark places.

Freedom brought to all corners of the world, one step at a time. By wild women.

© Text copyright Randy Brown December 20, 2017


A Christmas story I recommend to everyone By Randy Brown

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Our Totally, Ridiculous, Made-Up Christmas Relationship by Brittainy Cherry

228 pages, Kindle edition.

This story truly illustrates why this is one of my favorite plots; the fake boyfriend/fiancé/husband/etc.

Kayden and Jules; one desperately needs a job, the other has to produce someone to keep their family off their back during Christmas. Before these two meet, we learn where they are in their lives, mostly through the failures of their current life choices. Dire straits funnel them into each other’s arms, literally. A seasonally wicked snowstorm, a broken down car, family members that are all too well-known and a hidden nut allergy test the ersatz couple as severely as any twenty year marriage.

They haven’t even known each other ten hours.

Distracted by the intense attraction to each other, they open their hearts, sharing hopes and fears never voiced to anyone. The loss of Kayden’s first real love, Jules betrayal by her own sister. They cling to each other amidst the chaos that is Christmas with the strange people that makeup Jules’ family. Entirely too famous strange people.

A 3AM pancake cooking session, where the blueberries vs chocolate chips argument is about to lead to interesting uses of maple syrup but is interrupted by … Grandma? The Christmas tree expedition where a demonstration of fake Kung Fu fighting runs smack dab into an old fashioned fist to the nose. All of this while struggling to keep up with each other’s stories of how they met, courted, and everything else a committed couple is supposed to know about each other.

Then comes the unraveling (could this plot be carried through without the reveal? Now that would make an interesting story; the couple forced to live their made up relationship). The truth is revealed, with a crisis that makes the white lie too innocent to even mention. Then a second truth is revealed but we aren’t done yet. Things happen, butts are kicked and Christmas passes. Hilarity ensues on New Year’s Eve.

A very touching story with enough laughter to cause people to move away from you, not to mention your spouse banishing you to another room.

© Randy Brown 2017

A Christmas Book recommendation.

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Thanksgiving is over! Almost. A few families will have leftover food to deal with. Some, like my family, will prepare a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Saturday or Sunday so that they can experience the joy of leftovers.

Anyway, tis the season and all that. Yo ho ho and a bottle of … No, that’s talk like a pirate day. Ho, ho, ho, with no yo, goes along with tis the season.

I have a collection of Christmas stories on my Kindle that I re-read every year after Thanksgiving. This year I decided to share some of them because we all could use a break from the barrage of holiday-ness assaulting us from every which way.

I found these stories from a wide variety of sources; author’s newsletters, free ebook lists, Kindle special deals, personal recommendations from other readers and authors, and happenstance when I stumbled upon the book.

In no way have I received recompense for touting this book or any other I happen to recommend. I like the story and want to share it. I try to give a broad overview of the story so that you can decide if it something you would enjoy reading or not.


My Christmas Boyfriend by S J Crabb

283 pages, Kindle edition.

One of my favorite Christmas movies is an adaptation of the Dylan Thomas poem, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It stars Denholm Elliott, who narrates this lyrical piece.

My Christmas Boyfriend could be subtitled; An Adults Christmas in Dorchester. England that is.

This wonderful story follows one of my favorite plotlines; boyfriend/girlfriend needed for the holidays, subtext; to keep the family off my back. Divided equally between his high-society Christmas wedding and her small village family gathering, we are in for a wild sleigh ride through an English Christmas season.

Annie starts the story out by losing her job and her day goes downhill from there. At every turn life gives her a kick and just when you think ‘Oh, the poor dear’ she gives a kick back. On the train to the family home, where she schemes what kind of life story she will make up to account for her current unemployment, her single-ness, and overall lack of prospects for either a new job or man in her life, she meets Liam and they commiserate over a flask of brandy. A rather bleary plan forms.

Annie leads us through the strange world of a high-society English Christmas wedding where she finds that Liam’s last girlfriend was the most beautiful, famous movie star of all Europe. Annie is snubbed by everyone but Liam and a few of his close friends, who know the truth about his former girlfriend. When the new groom, a slezeball of the first order, makes a disgusting proposition, she causes a scene. Liam is only too happy to leave since he never wanted to be there in the first place.

Oh, did I forget to mention? Liam is a high-fashion photographer, for British Vogue no less.

Still filled with her indomitable spirit, Annie leads Liam, with dread warnings and dire tales of her family gatherings, to her childhood home. Now, here there are references to an English TV show or well-known story, that I am not familiar with but will look up at some time or another. It may well be something like Ozzie and Harriet of our past, where her folks pretend to be Ozzie and Harriet. Her folks run a small year round—except for Christmas—vacation resort.

Mom goes all out for Christmas, dad is asking the strangest questions of everyone, her sister is a crime scene investigator with a homicide detective boyfriend, her gram insists on being called Lizzy and refuses to admit to being over 70 … And we are introduced to what I would consider a normal Christmas gathering. Mulled wine and/or brandy at the local pub, Christmas shopping for last minute gifts amid crowds that are all seeking the same must have children’s toy for the season. Decorations that must be found and brought down from storage, dad asking even stranger questions, an alarming amount of Brussel sprouts, mince pies and more mulled wine, a happy surprise among the carolers and odd, early morning sounds that come from Annie’s sister’s room when she is supposed to be alone.

This is a Christmas story that I am adding to my list of To Be Read stack that I open every year at Thanksgiving.

Excerpt from Dr. Gabrielle Graham’s personal journal, Monday evening, 10:40 PM

Once upon a time a man appeared in my living room.

He was six foot tall, dark hair with blue eyes and a strong jaw. He was broad-shouldered, 180 pounds or so, fit, and wearing black jeans, a gray t-shirt, and well-worn, expensive hiking boots. Good looking without being a pretty boy.

Scared the living crap out of me …

I was sitting at the kitchen table studying the ledger that had smashed my foot that afternoon, doodling as I always do when I’m thinking. The entries just weren’t making sense, where would the shopkeeper get bok choy in April? Rocky Bar is high in Idaho’s mountains, above five thousand feet, the sun wouldn’t even reach it that early. Snow would still be a foot thick, covering the frozen ground. And in 1882 it would take several days travel from Boise.

“Who are you?” A man’s voice came from behind me.

I spun around to face him, ready to kick some ass but all I could do was stare into the cutest blue eyes I’d ever seen. He seemed shocked for some reason. I don’t know if he expected the apartment to be empty or what. How had he gotten into my locked apartment, anyway?

He shook his head and held out his empty hands and said, “Sorry. I’ve never done this before.”

Which is a strange thing for a burglar to say, even if it is his first job. ‘Never admit you don’t know what you’re doing’, one of the rules that grandpa taught me and dad reinforced. Grandma always winked at me during their lectures.

Next he said, “I thought I was dreaming, but you’re real.”

Duh. For a microsecond I thought he must be high or delusional but I couldn’t risk dropping my guard. I needed to take him down, then ask questions. I gathered myself, ready to leap across the room and tackle him …

That’s when things got interesting.

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The Archeologist and the Spirit Catchers

Randy Brown began writing even before he knew how. This led to learning how to scrub walls and floors, which has proved an invaluable skill in today’s world. After learning to read and write he began to fill notebooks with sloppy handwriting. Learning to operate a typewriter allowed more people to be able to read what he wrote. Not that they did.

He held a variety of jobs until 1977 when he became a printing press operator at a small instant print shop. He did this in Boise, Idaho as well as several places in and around Portland, Oregon. When he came back to Idaho he continued as an offset press operator until the demand for such diminished and he was no longer employed.

The Archeologist and the Spirit Catchers is the first of his books to be published. It is the first in a series. It is followed by; The Archeologist and the High Mountain Bok Choy, The Archeologist and the Telling and The Archeologist and the Wedding.